Skip to main content

sandhill crane

sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis) Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

The sandhill crane averages about 40 to 48 inches in length (tail tip to bill tip in preserved specimen). This bird has a wingspan of six to seven feet. A red patch can be seen on the top of the bird’s head extending to the back edge of the bill. The feathers are gray in adults and brown in immature cranes. The crane has long legs and a long neck. The feathers over the rump stick out in a “bustle.”

The sandhill crane is common in northern Illinois. It lives in prairies, fields (especially in corn fields), the edges of swampy areas, lakes and marshes. Spring migration begins in late February. The bird flies on good weather days and often does not land in Illinois. The sandhill crane has its nesting area in northern Illinois. The nest is a large pile of vegetation on the ground in a marshy area. Two, brown eggs with dark markings are deposited by the female. The male and female alternate incubation duties for the 31- to 32-day incubation period. Fall migration begins in mid-September. The sandhill crane winters in the southern United States from Florida to Texas. Cranes fly with the neck and legs extended. When migrating, they fly in flocks that are linear or in a "v" shape. The sandhill crane eats plant and animal materials. Its call is "garooo-a-a-a."

Reasons for Concern

Wetland destruction and disturbance are the main threats to this species that expanded its range into Illinois in 1979.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae

Illinois Status: common, native