Sandhill crane

Expand all

More names for this bird

Anishinaabemowin: Ajijaak

Dakota: Pehaŋ (crane)

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Grus canadensis

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

Sandhill cranes dancing in wetland

Video by Mila Velimirovich, Bell Museum educator

About the sandhill crane

  • The sandhill crane is one of the largest birds in Minnesota, standing at four to five feet tall.
  • Its loud, rattling bugle calls, given in flight as well as on the ground, can be heard from up to 2½ miles away.
  • Similar to most birds, sandhill cranes have hollow bones adapted for flying long distances. This means that adult sandhill cranes weigh surprisingly little for their height—as little as five to eight pounds!
  • The sandhill crane is not threatened, but its close relativethe whooping craneis endangered.
  • Sandhill cranes migrate. Expand the "Migration animation" section below to learn more.

Expand all

Migration animation

Click the full-frame icon (lower right corner of video) to play at full size.

Video file

More about eBird's abundance animations

eBird data from 2006-2020. Estimated for 2020. Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, C. Wood, I. Davies, M. Iliff, L. Seitz. 2021. eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2020; Released: 2021. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for changes in sandhill cranes' presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year appear and develop.

Expand all

Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch and listen for when observing sandhill crane phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this bird or collect data in a standardized way.

Two sandhill cranes on icey ground. Observed in the month of March
Flock of sandhill cranes against blue sky.
Two sandhill cranes with two small chicks in a wetland.
Sandhill crane with two chicks. Chicks are more than half the height of the parent.
Sandhill crane, young-of-year. Observed in the month of July
About 20 sandhill cranes in flight against a deep blue sky
Six sandhill cranes high in the sky, against a sky with wispy clouds


Audio resources

Visit All About Birds for recordings of songs and calls by sandhill cranes.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Sherburne County

Arrival (flying north)

  • Earliest: March 4 (occurred in 2000)
  • Average: March 18
  • Latest: March 31 (occurred in 1980)
Scatterplot showing sandhill crane phenology in Sherburne County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)

Graph explainer available