The Sandhill Crane is a species from the Grus genus. It is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia.
Adults are gray overall; during breeding, the plumage is usually much worn and stained, particularly in the migratory populations, and looks nearly ochre. The average weight of the larger male is 4.57 kg (10.1 lb), while the average weight of females is 4.02 kg (8.9 lb), with a range of 2.7 to 6.7 kg (6.0 to 15 lb) across the subspecies. The Sandhill Crane has a red forehead, white cheeks and a long dark pointed bill. Its long dark legs trail behind in flight, and the long neck is kept straight in flight.
Sandhill cranes are fairly social birds that are usually encountered in pairs or family groups through the year. During migration and winter, non-related cranes come together to form "survival groups" which forage and roost together. Such groups often congregrate at migration and winter sites, sometimes resulting in thousands of cranes being found together.
Sandhill Cranes are quite catholic in diet but are mainly herbivorous, often eating various types of food based on availability. They often feed with their bills down to the ground as they root around for seeds and other foods in shallow wetlands with vegetation or various upland habitats. Cultivated foods such as corn, wheat and sorghum are readily eaten and may support large numbers of cranes.
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Sandhill cranes raise one brood per year. In non-migratory populations, egg-laying can begin as early as December or as late as August. In migratory populations, egg-laying usually begins between early April and late May. Both members of a breeding pair build the nest using plant material from the surrounding areas. Nest sites are usually in marshes, bogs, or swales, though cranes will occasionally nest on dry land. The female lays 1 to 3 (usually 2) eggs that are oval-shaped and dull brown with reddish brown markings. Both parents participate in incubation, which lasts 29 to 32 (though usually 30) days. Incubation begins with the laying of the first egg and continues until the second egg has hatched. The chicks are precocial; they hatch covered in down, with their eyes open and are able to leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. The parents brood the chicks for up to 3 weeks after hatching. They feed the young intensively for the first few weeks, and with decreasing frequency until they reach independence at 9 or 10 months old.
- Sandhill Crane has reached Europe as a vagrant on a number of occasions. The first British record was on Fair Isle in April 1981, and the second was in Shetland in 1991.