Florida Sandhill Crane


Florida sandhill crane: Grus canadensis pratensis

Taxonomic Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class:  Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae
Genus/Species: Grus canadensis
Subspecies: Grus canadensis pratensis
Common Name: Florida sandhill crane

Listing Status

Federal Status: Not Listed
FL Status: State-designated Threatened
FNAI Ranks: G5T2T3/S2S3 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure, Sub sp. Insufficient data for specific rank, but ranges from imperiled to rare/State: Insufficient data for specific rank, but range from imperiled to rare)
IUCN Status: Not ranked

Physical Description

The Florida sandhill crane can reach a height of 47.2 inches (120 centimeters) with a wingspan around 78.7 inches (200 centimeters) (Nesbitt 1996).  This species is gray with a long neck and legs, and a bald spot of red skin on the top of its head.  The sandhill crane is unique in flight as it can be seen flying with its neck stretched out completely.

Life History

The diet of the Florida sandhill crane primarily consists of grain, berries, seeds, insects, worms, mice, small birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs. 

Florida sandhill cranes are a non-migratory species that nests in freshwater ponds and marshes.  This species is monogamous (breeds with one mate).  Courtship consists of dancing, which features jumping, running, and wing flapping (International Crane Foundation, n.d.).  Sandhill crane nests are built by both mates with grass, moss, and sticks.  Females lay two eggs that incubate for 32 days.  Both male and female participate in incubating the eggs (Nesbitt 1996).  The offspring will begin traveling from the nest with their parents just 24-hours after hatching.  At ten months old, juveniles are able to leave their parents (Nesbitt 1996).  Bonding between pairs begins at two years old. 

Habitat and Distribution

Florida Sandhill Crane Distribution Map

Florida sandhill cranes inhabit freshwater marshes, prairies, and pastures (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  They occur throughout peninsular Florida north to the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia; however, they are less common at the northernmost and southernmost portions of this range.  Florida’s Kissimmee and Desoto prairie regions are home to the state’s most abundant populations (Meine and Archibald 1996).


Degradation or direct loss of habitat due to wetland drainage or conversion of prairie for development or agricultural use are the primary threats facing Florida sandhill cranes.  The range of the Florida sandhill crane diminished in the southeastern United States during the 20th century, with breeding populations disappearing from coastal Texas, Alabama, and southern Louisiana due to degradation, habitat loss, and overhunting.  (Meine and Archibald 1996).

Conservation and Management

The Florida sandhill crane is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule External Website.

Biological Status Review (BSR) Adobe PDF
Supplemental Information for the BSR Adobe PDF

Other Informative Links

Encyclopedia of Life External Website
Florida Natural Areas Inventory External Website
FWC Species Profile
FWC Breeding Bird Atlas Adobe PDF
International Crane Foundation External Website
Southwest Florida Water Management District External Website
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology External Website



Printable version of this page Adobe PDF


Florida Natural Areas Inventory.  2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida. http://www.fnai.org/FieldGuide/pdf/Grus_canadensis_pratensis.PDF External Website.

International Crane Foundation. (n.d.). Sandhill Cranes. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from Species Field Guide: https://www.savingcranes.org/species-field-guide/sandhill-crane/ External Website

Meine, C.D. and G.W. Archibald (Eds.). 1996. Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) in The cranes: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K. 294 Pp. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/cranes/gruscana.htm External Website. Accessed  10/25/2010).

Nesbitt S.A., 1996.  Florida Sandhill Crane.  Pages 219 – 229 in J.A. Rodgers, Jr., H.W. Kale II,  and H.T. Smith (Eds.).  Rare and endangered biota of Florida, Vol. V:  Birds. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Image Credit Photo by FWC

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