Distinguishing Features - Sandhill cranes are heavy bodied with long necks and legs. They have white cheeks that contrast with their grey necks and bodies. A reddish patch adorns the forehead and upper face. The birds are about 1.2 meters tall and have a wing span of about 2 meters.
The species ranges from as far north as Alaska and the coast of the Arctic Ocean south into the Great Lakes region and westward across Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Populations are also found in northeastern Siberia, Andyrland, and on the Chyukotski peninsula and Wrangel Island. They prefer marshes, bogs, broad, flat arctic valleys, marshy taiga; also fields and shallows along lakes and slow-moving rivers. They prefer to be far from human habitation.
Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous birds that use their bills to probe for subsurface food and glean seeds and other foods. It feeds on land or in shallow marshes with vegetation. Cultivated grains are a major food source in their diet when available. Foods ary depending on location. In northern latitudes, a wider variety of foods are consumed, including berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians.
The species is noted for its elaborate courtship dancing. Sandhill Cranes are perenially monogamous and provide extended biparental care of their young. Families say together for about nine to ten months. The species is partially migratory, with northern populations moving south during the winter months, while southern populations remain near the breeding sites year round. The strongest social units are pairs and families that combine, in migratory populations, into large, socially unstable flocks. These survival groups often congregate at migratory staging areas and on the wintering grounds.
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