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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sandhill Crane -- Grus canadensis

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and northern Yukon to Baffin Island, south locally to southern Alaska, northeastern California, Colorado, southern Minnesota, southern Michigan, and western Quebec. Resident from southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and southern Georgia south to Florida. Winters from central California and southeastern Arizona to the Gulf Coast and southern Georgia south to Mexico.

STATUS: Northern subspecies (Lesser, Canadian, and Greater) are migratory and locally common, while nonmigratory subspecies (Cuban, Florida, and Mississippi) are threatened or endangered.

HABITAT: Inhabits prairies, tundra, open pinewood flats, and other open areas. Breeds in or near shallow marshes, bogs, sloughs, margins of lakes, ponds, and river deltas. In mountainous regions, inhabits isolated, well-watered river valleys, marshes, and meadows. Occasionally inhabits relatively small marshes and patches of prairie in forested country. During winter, roosts in flocks at night on low damp ground or in shallow water, and flies to feeding grounds at dawn.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shallow wetlands adjacent to a meadow, cultivated fields, or open woodlands and free of human disturbance.

NEST: Usually nests in or near shallow wetlands adjacent to feeding grounds. Nests are located on a mound of emergent vegetation, sticks, grass, moss, or mud among rushes, sedges, grasses or other tall, dense vegetation. Pairs mate for life.

FOOD: Feeds in cultivated fields, pastures, wet meadows, and marshes. Eats wheat, corn, alfalfa, sorghum, barley, roots and tubers, berries, small mammals, snakes, frogs, lizards, crickets, and grasshoppers.

REFERENCES: Archibald in Farrand 1983a, Cramp and Simmons 1980, Johnsgard 1975a, Lewis 1977, Terres 1980, Walkinshaw 1949.

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