North American sandhill cranes are collectively the most abundant of the world's crane species and are divided into three non-migratory and three migratory subspecies. The non-migratory subspecies, which is found in Florida, Mississippi and Cuba, are relatively small populations with restricted ranges; specialized conservation programs exist for this subspecies. The migratory sandhill cranes subspecies, including lesser and greater sandhill cranes, have been grouped into six populations for management purposes, despite their subspecies affiliation.
The range map defines these populations:
- Rocky Mountain
- Lower Colorado River Valley
- Central Valley
- Pacific Coast - also called the Pacific Flyway
The Mid-Continent Population is the most abundant of the North American populations and is comprised of both subspecies, whereas the other populations are comprised almost exclusively of either the greater or lesser subspecies.
- Visit the Sandhill Crane Population Status Reports Library Collection which provides detailed information on the population status for sandhill cranes in North America.
- Visit the Sandhill Crane Surveys page for detailed reports for sandhill crane population surveys conducted throughout North America.
- Visit the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program to find the Sandhill Crane, A Funding Strategy II which contains recommendations for updated priority information needs that build upon previous priorities identified in the first Priority Information Needs Workshop for sandhill cranes. The strategy is intended to focus stakeholder coordination for completing priorities that will improve management of the six migratory sandhill crane populations and deliberate planning built on basic scientific principles.
Locomotion: Walking, flying
Activity: Feeding and self-maintenance - preening, head rub, head scratch, and body shake
Agnostic: Aggressive - choke, upright forward, upright stab, and upright kick - non-directional threat (low bow, ruffle bow, and unison call)
Courtship: Displays - paired adults: precopulatory bill up, copulations, unison call. All social classes: upright wing stretch, horizontal head pump, bow, vertical leap, and vertical object toss
Preflight and Alert: Preflight neck-stretch display before take-off, alert investigative posture when inquisitive, and tall alert posture when alarmed
Sandhill cranes nest in a wide variety of habitats, including:
- Isolated, open, marshes or bogs surrounded by shrubs and forests
- Expansive grasslands, wet marshy meadows and grass succession, with wetlands or streams, sandy and peat soils
- The Hudson Bay lowlands, mixtures of open grasslands, open low shrubs and low shrub physiognomic groups mixed with fens and fen pools
- Western range and basins, isolated, river valleys and wet-meadow-shallow marsh zones along the marsh edge and at elevations above 1.5 kilometers
- Tundra, wet marsh or sedge meadow areas, heath meadows and short grass meadows
During migration and winter months, they can be found around shallow lakes, wetlands, shallow impoundments, sandbars, harvested agriculture fields, as well as hayfields and pastures.
Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.
A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.
A level or rolling treeless plain that is characteristic of arctic and subarctic regions with permanently frozen subsoil.
A considerable inland body of standing water.
A natural body of running water.
Of or relating to cities and the people who live in them.
Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.
Sandhill cranes are omnivores that feed mainly by probing for subsurface food items with their bills. They also eat seeds, grains, berries, tubers, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. Cultivated grains are the primary food source during migration and wintering areas.