Sandhill Cranes


North American sandhill cranes are collectively the most abundant of the world's crane species and are divided into three non-migratory and three migratory subspecies. The non-migratory subspecies (Florida, Cuban and Mississippi) are relatively small populations with restricted ranges, and specialized conservation programs already exist for their management.

The sandhill crane is an ancient North American species with fossil records dating back at least 2.5 million years. They are large, vocal, spectacular birds with unique breeding displays and have become symbols of international cooperation for bird conservation. Sandhill cranes are long-lived, have the lowest recruitment rates (5-15 percent juveniles/total cranes) of any North American game bird, and generally do not breed until age 3-5 years of age. Migratory sandhill cranes occupy a vast range that includes Russia (Siberia), Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Historically, sandhill cranes were thought to be comprised of three subspecies (greater, Canadian, and lesser).

For management purposes, migratory sandhill cranes have been grouped into six populations for management purposes, despite their subspecies affiliation: Central Valley, Eastern, Lower Colorado River Valley, Mid-Continent, Pacific Coast (also called the Pacific Flyway), and the Rocky Mountain Populations. The Mid-Continent Population is comprised of both subspecies of sandhill cranes, whereas the other populations are comprised almost exclusively of either the greater or lesser subspecies. More information on the sandhill crane can be found in the Sandhill Crane, A Funding Strategy II document below.

Sandhill crane populations in North America
Sandhill crane populations in North America (revised March 2018)

 Sandhill Crane, A Funding Strategy II (1MB)

This strategy contains recommendations for updated priority information needs that build upon previous priorities identified in the  first Priority Information Needs (1.1MB) Workshop for sandhill cranes. The development of these updated needs was shaped from work that was completed since the first workshop in April 2009. The strategy is intended to focus stakeholder coordination for completing priorities that will improve management of the six migratory sandhill crane populations. It is also intended to increase financial support for management and research activities over the next 5 to 10 years with thoughtful and deliberate planning built on basic scientific principles.

 Sandhill Crane, Status and Harvests of Sandhill Cranes (2.8MB)

This report provides population status, recruitment indices, harvest trends, and other management information for the Mid-Continent, Rocky Mountain, Lower Colorado River Valley, and Eastern populations of sandhill cranes.

 Coordinated Spring Survey Of Mid-Continent Sandhill Cranes (465.2KB)

This report provides population status for mid-continent sandhill cranes. Aerial transect coverage includes Nebraska’s Platte and North Platte River valleys. Ground coverage efforts focus in areas of traditional crane use/occurrence within the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas.

 Eastern Population of Greater Sandhill Crane Fall Survey (2.4MB)

This report provides the summary and results for the annual Eastern Population of greater sandhill crane Fall survey conducted during the last week of October and early November. For more information on the Fall survey, please visit

 Sandhill Crane Management Plans

Individual species management plans are products of Flyway Councils and developed to guide state, provincial, and federal agencies cooperatively manage migratory birds. Within management plans are non-legal binding recommendations which agencies agreed to guide management decisions. These Flyway Councils have prepared management plans for most migratory game bird species in North America. To date there are plans for six North American migratory populations of sandhill cranes (Eastern, Mid-Continent, Rocky Mountain, Lower Colorado River Valley, Central Valley, and Pacific).

Final Reports & Abstracts for Projects Funded through the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program

This program was designed to provide cooperative funding for both research and management activities from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and other sources for projects benefitting mourning and white-winged doves, hunted rails (sora, clapper, king and Virginia) and Wilson's snipe, sandhill cranes, American woodcock, American coots, common moorhens, and purple gallinules, and band-tailed pigeon, scaly-naped pigeon, Zenaida dove, and white-tipped dove. The Webless Migratory Game Bird funding program has proved to be invaluable in providing much-needed funding for webless species that receive considerably less attention than waterfowl. The purpose of the program abstracts and reports is to provide updated information on Webless Migratory Game Bird Program funded projects. Projects completed through the program have resulted in improved knowledge and management of webless migratory game birds.

(Project Abstracts: 2004-2011)

(Final Reports: 2012 - present are listed below)

Additional Sandhill Crane resources can be located at:

 International Crane Foundation
 Rowe Sanctuary
 Bosque del Apache NWR
 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival
 Audubon's Nebraska Crane Festival
 Monte Vista, Colorado Crane Festival

Last Updated: January 21, 2021