March 2017 Biodiversity Spotlight

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

All Images Courtesy of Cathy Bester and were taken at Sweetwater Wetlands Park in December 2016.

The Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis formerly Grus canadensis) is the most abundant crane species on Earth and is found throughout North America from northern Canada to Mexico. Sandhill Cranes are well recognized throughout their range. Standing at almost four feet tall and with their deep trumpeting call, they are hard to miss. The majority of individuals are migratory - spending winters in the southern United States and in northern Mexico and migrating to Canada and the northern United States in the summer to breed. There are also non-migratory populations in Florida, Mississippi, and Cuba. Sandhill Cranes occur in open habitats and are predominately found in freshwater wetlands. Often recognized for their dance-like courtship, they are typically monogamous, forming breeding pairs that usually mate for life.

Sandhill Cranes are one of the few crane species that are not currently threatened with extinction. They were historically affected by hunting, agriculture, and habitat loss, but their populations have responded well to conservation actions and programs that were initiated in the mid-1950s. Only the non-migratory populations of Sandhill Cranes are considered at-risk due to their restricted range at this time.  However, overall the Sandhill Crane could be in trouble again in the near future due to habitat loss caused by climate change. The Audubon's climate model projects a 58 percent loss of the crane’s current winter range by 2080.

Learn more about Sandhill Cranes