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Close-up of the side profile of an adult sandhill crane against a grass background. 

Sandhill cranes are native wading birds with a long neck and legs that stand approximately four feet tall with a patch of bald red skin on top of their heads. Florida’s Sandhill Crane subspecies lives and breeds in Florida year-round. As human development continues to expand in Florida, cranes are living in closer proximity to people more commonly now than ever before. They have adapted to losses in habitat by using urban environments such as subdivisions and golf courses for foraging and nesting. Open settings (particularly mowed grass), water features, and foods such as acorns, nutsedge, earthworms, mole crickets and turf grubs are known to attract Sandhill Cranes. The foraging habits of sandhill cranes can occasionally put them into conflict with humans when their search for food leads to damaging lawns or golf courses.

Here are important tips if encountering a sandhill crane on a golf course:

  • Sandhill Cranes are protected by both state and federal law and may not be harmed. Harm is defined as any act which kills or injures fish or wildlife. It is a violation to make physical contact with cranes, or to attempt to hit them with golf balls or other objects.
  • Never feed cranes! It is illegal to feed sandhill cranes and is harmful to both the birds and people (Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.001(6)). Feeding sandhill cranes – intentionally or unintentionally – may cause them to linger in undesirable areas, lose their natural fear of people, and increase the risk of aggressive behaviors. If you observe illegal feeding of sandhill cranes, please report the violation to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922.
  • Sandhill cranes are ground nesters. To diminish risks to nesting cranes, avoid areas within 400 feet of an active sandhill crane nest. Activities that should be avoided include but are not limited to mowing, landscaping and tree trimming.
Sandhill crane feeding her chick a spider, while walking in grass. 

If you encounter adult sandhill cranes directly approaching people or pets outside of their breeding season, which runs December 1 through May 1, it is permissible to consistently haze adult cranes using approved methods below. Please note that hazing is prohibited during the breeding season, within 400 feet of a nest, and within 400 feet of adults with flightless young.     

Hazing methods permissible for use with adult sandhill cranes outside of the breeding season:

  • Spraying with water in a manner unlikely to cause harm.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers or motion-activated alarms.
  • Displacing sandhill cranes by moving towards them on foot or by vehicle without making physical contact.
  • Opening and closing an umbrella in front of you while facing cranes and moving slowly in their direction.
  • Waving your arms or clapping your hands and yelling at them.
  • Making loud noises using an airhorn or banging pots and pans.
  • Outside of breeding season, use of noises, such as air horns, vehicle horns, propane cannons, screamer sirens, bird bangers, and bird repellant noise devices. (Please note: some options may also be restricted by local sound ordinances. Check regulations with your local law enforcement office.)

Strategies for reducing sandhill crane impact to golf courses or lawns:

  • For golf courses or communal areas associated with a residential community, work with residents to ensure the sandhill cranes are not fed, intentionally or accidentally. Bird feeders should hang more than 6 feet in the air to prevent sandhill cranes from being able to access them and the design should prevent spillage by squirrels and other larger birds. Other attractants such as trash or pet food should be kept in a secured location where sandhill cranes cannot access them. Securing or removing attractants also helps prevent conflicts with other wildlife. Intentionally feeding sandhill cranes is illegal.
  • Certain turf conditions can increase the likelihood of extensive sandhill crane damage.
    • Ensure lawns are watered only as much as is necessary. Overwatering makes the soil more attractive to the underground bugs sandhill cranes are seeking.
    • The presence of nutsedge and other grass species in the turf may contribute to more extensive damage as sandhill cranes dig for the roots and shoots which are part of their diet. Find more information about managing unwanted plant growth through UF’s IFAS page on Weed Management in Florida Lawns (

Reducing or removing human-caused attractants combined with consistent hazing is the best approach to preventing conflict with Florida’s sandhill cranes. Bear in mind, lawns and golf courses are excellent habitats for cranes, so even using the deterrent strategies above may not eliminate sandhill crane presence. If damage continues despite efforts to haze the birds, a permit may be issued in certain circumstances to allow for more aggressive hazing strategies. Permits are considered on a case-by-case basis and may not be appropriate in all situations. For permitting questions, consult with an FWC biologist and then contact the FWC at (850) 921-5990 or

For more information on how to prevent property damage or other conflicts with sandhill cranes please see the Florida Sandhill Crane Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines, contact your FWC Regional Office, or visit