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Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Grus canadensis pratensis                                    Photo Fiona Sunquist ©


The sandhill crane is one of Florida’s largest birds— 1.2 meters tall, with a wingspan of about 2 meters. Sandhills fly with neck and legs extended and vocalize frequently when in flight.  Great blue herons are about the same size, but fly with their neck curled backward.  There are an estimated 4,000 Florida sandhill cranes.

Sandhill cranes prefer pasture, prairies and shallow wetlands.  They roost in shallow marshes at night.  They feed in variety of open habitats such as sod farms, golf courses, airports, and suburban subdivisions, and are sometimes seen foraging beside highways or along the median strips of roads.

Sandhill cranes form monogamous pairs, which often remain together for several years.  Pairs have a characteristic antiphonal vocalization known as a unison call, which can be heard several kilometers away.  They also have a guard call which signals danger.

In addition to the resident population of sandhill cranes that stays in Florida year around and breeds here, Florida is also the winter destination for a migratory population of cranes that breed in Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada.  These migrating cranes arrive in Florida in November, and fly north again in the middle of February.  Many of the migrant cranes spend the winter on wetlands around Gainesville in north Florida.

In February 2007, just before they flew north for the summer, hundreds of sandhill cranes and seven whooping cranes gathered on the wetlands of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. People driving across Paynes Prairie on Highway 441 were treated to the impressive spectacle for several days as the cranes used the site as a staging area before beginning their spring migration.



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Wildlife of Florida 2011
Wildlife of Florida 2011
Fiona Sunquist
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Wildlife of Florida: Lizards
Fiona Sunquist
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