Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
SANDHILL CRANE Grus canadensis L41" (185cm)
There are six subspecies, or races, of sandhill cranes. They differ in size and darkness of coloration. Three of the subspecies are migratory, all of which pass through North Dakota during the spring and fall. The largest race is the greater sandhill crane(G. c. tabida) with an average weight between 10 and 14 pounds. The two smaller races, the lesser sandhill crane(G. c. canadensis) and the Canadian sandhill crane(G. c. rowani), weigh between 6 and 9 pounds. Depending on where they nest, the plumage of sandhill cranes will often be stained yellow to reddish brown. This rusty color is caused by ferric oxide (iron) in the soil which is transferred to the cranes' feathers during preening. During the breeding season, the majority of sandhill cranes inhabit marshes, bogs, and flat marshy tundra in Alaska and across Canada. Smaller populations breed in the northwestern United States and around the Great Lakes region. The female lays two olive-brown eggs and incubation is shared by both sexes. The voice of the sandhill crane is very distinctive -a vibrant, far-carrying gar-oo-ooo which is often audible for several miles.