Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis )

Sandhill Cranes Feeding

These handsome birds are certainly not exclusive to Florida, yet I could not imagine Florida without them.  One can find two subspecies in Florida.  Grus canadensis pratensis (Florida Sandhill) resides throughout the year in much of the state and Grus canadensis rowani (Canadian Sandhill) visits during the winter months.

Their plumage is naturally varying shades of grey, with a distinctive red mask.  During summer, however, many Sandhill Cranes may be seen with reddish brown feathers.  This coloration is a result of the birds actually applying and preening iron-rich mud into their feathers.  These feathers are molted in late autumn.

Sandhill Cranes are not beach birds and prefer freshwater wetlands, bogs, meadows, open grasslands or cultivated fields.  Unlike many long-legged bird species, they are not actual fishers.  They are omnivorous and enjoy not only insects, worms and small vertebrates (such as snakes, mice and lizards), but also tubers and grain.  Unfortunately the latter has sometimes placed cranes in conflict with farmers.

Overall, the Sandhill Crane population is stable to growing, however the Florida Sandhill is Florida state designated “threatened,” although I have seen some sources list it as “endangered.”


Resources: sandhill-cranes

South West Florida Water Management – Sandhill Cranes

Florida Birding Trail – Sandhill Cranes


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