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Help FWC Biologists learn more about color-banded sandhill cranes

The Species

The Florida sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis pratensis) is one of five sandhill crane sub-species found in North America. Florida sandhills are non-migratory and range from southeastern Georgia to the Everglades. The current population estimate is around 4,600 birds and it is state-listed as Threatened in Florida.

Like other crane species, Florida sandhills need wetlands as well as uplands. Wetlands such as shallow depression marshes and lake edges are used for nesting, foraging, and roosting. Uplands with low vegetation, such as private ranchland and dry prairie, are used for foraging and loafing. Both habitat types are equally important to cranes. Unfortunately, wetlands are often drained and open uplands bulldozed to make way for roads, shopping malls, and subdivisions. Remarkably, however, some cranes are remaining in or moving to urbanized areas and living among us.

As a threatened species, intentionally feeding harassing FL sandhill cranes is illegal. If you observe someone engaging in this or other detrimental behavior, please report it by calling 888-404-FWCC or visit the Wildlife Alert Program Web page.

The Project

In 2017, FWRI began a project examining how Florida sandhills are using urbanized areas. We are currently marking some adult cranes with cellular GPS transmitters and/or color bands in suburbs and developed areas. We are also tagging Florida sandhills in rural and conservation areas to help us better understand survivorship, productivity, and habitat use along the urban gradient.

How you can help

If you see a sandhill crane, let us know! We are asking the public to report sightings of sandhill cranes, including location, time, and band color information if possible. Colored bands are placed around the leg of a crane to help biologists identify the individual. Some cranes have just one band, while others have up to four. Knowing which leg (right or left), how many bands on that leg, and the color and placement of each band is important in identifying individuals. Even incomplete records of color combinations may be valuable as they could allow us to narrow down which crane was sighted.

To report a sighting, email and send any photographs to _cranes@myfwc.com. Please include the following information as best you can:

  • Your Name
  • Date & time of sighting
  • Location of sighting – include your county as well as a description of the location. You can use nearby towns or neighborhoods, roads or intersections, and businesses to help us pinpoint the location
  • Band description – please include which leg (the bird’s right or left), how many bands, and what colors. Describe the placement of the bands by saying which color is “over” another
  • Any other relevant or interesting information – what the bird(s) is doing, if there are any young, what type of habitat they are utilizing, etc.

Adult sandhill crane, band = blue on left; photo courtesy of Tim Dellinger, FWRI

Adult sandhill crane

Adult with two juveniles, band = green on left; photo courtesy of Tim Dellinger, FWRI

Adult with two juveniles

Two adult sandhill cranes, band = white over red on right; photo courtesy of Tim Dellinger, FWRI

Two adult sandhill cranes