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education: birds of georgia
Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

Photo of Florida Sandhill Cranes, winter plumage.
Florida Sandhill Cranes, winter plumage. Photographed at St. Catherine's Island, Liberty County, GA on Dec. 16, 2006.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

Status: Resident and breeding Florida Sandhill Crane (G.c. pratensis) found in Okefenokee Swamp (Ware and Charlton), Grand Bay (Lanier and Lowndes) and St Catherine's Is (Liberty). The population in Okefenokee may be declining from appx. 400 birds in 1989 (C. Hunter, pers. comm.), and other two sites have < 10 pairs each. Spring and fall migrant Greater Sandhill Crane, (G.c.tabida) is uncommon to common in passage in wide corridor NW to SE across central portion of state (Patterson 1978b). The entire Florida wintering population of tabida migrates through Georgia. Some migrants winter with pratensis in above cited locations and elsewhere as along river bottoms. Spring migration mid-Jan to late Apr, with peak in mid-Feb to mid-Mar; fall migration early Sep to early Jan with peak mid-Nov to late Dec. Movements variable. Accidental in summer with 7 records. High counts (migration) 8000 in Houston 18 Feb 2000 and 7200 in Cobb 30 Nov 1999 (O 65:20) (Beaton, et al, 2003).

Habitat: On the nesting grounds across Canada, MN, WI, MT, ID, WY, OR, and AK, found on plains, prairies, fields, marshes and tundra. In winter in Georgia in Okefenokee Swamp prairies and marsh, on St. Catherine's Island in grass pasture areas, and in expansive fallow agricultural fields along Oostanaula River (Gordon) , Coosa River (Floyd) and in other river bottom habitat.

Diet: Omnivorous, varying diet with location and season. Major food items include insects, roots of aquatic plants; also eats rodents, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, berries, seeds and grain (Kaufman, 1996).

Identification: Large crane (L 46 in, WS 77 in, WT 10.6 lbs). Winter adults gray with dark bill and red crown offset by lateral band of white feathers from bill base to back of crown. Black legs. Summer adults body feathers show rust-stained appearance, particularly on back, wings and breast. In Georgia, many birds seen in large loose migrating flocks that fly very high and are often heard before they are seen. The voice is highly distinctive and flocks constantly send forth a haunting cacophony described as "loud, resonant, wooden rattle hkkkkkkk or hkarrrr, variable; a rolling bugle, typically a slightly descending roll" (Sibley, 2000). Naturalists have described the call of the Sandhill Crane as the essence of wildness. Flocks often mistaken for Canada Goose, Branta canadensis

Conservation: Numbers appear stable but species vulnerable to habitat destruction. Sadly, the species is killed for sport across the Great Plains and in Texas. Some sentiment exists to open hunting of the species in the southeast, which would pose a serious threat to the species and to the introduced eastern flock of Whooping Cranes, Grus americana. Two Whooping Cranes were recently shot in Kansas by Sandhill Crane hunters.

Photo of Florida Sandhill Crane, winter plumage.
Florida Sandhill Crane, winter plumage. Photographed at St. Catherine's Island, Liberty County, GA on Dec. 16, 2006.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

Photo of Greater Sandhill Crane, summer plumage.
Greater Sandhill Crane, summer plumage. Photographed at Gray's Lake, ID on June 14, 2005.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

Photo of Sandhill Cranes.
Sandhill Crane. Photographed at St. Catherine's Island, Liberty County, GA on Dec. 18, 2004.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

 

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University of GeorgiaEugene P. Odum School of Ecology
 

 
UGA River Basin Center
203 D.W. Brooks Drive
Athens, GA 30602-5017 USA
Phone: (706) 583-0463
Fax: (706) 583-0612

Seth J. Wenger, Co-Director for Science - swenger@uga.edu
Laurie Fowler, Co-Director for Policy - lfowler@uga.edu

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