Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
Conserving the Nature of America

Mississippi Sandhill Cranes - Their Unique Biology

Cranes look superficially like herons and their relatives. Both are tall, thin, and have long legs, necks and beaks. Despite their appearance, though, cranes are not closely related to herons, and their biology and way of living is quite different.

Most commonly, the Great Blue Heron is compared to a crane.

Sandhill Crane in Flight

Fly with neck outstretched Fly with recurved neck
Great Blue Heron in Flight Illustration
Bare red crown Fully feathered head
Loud, rattling
bugle call
Croak call
Long-lived Short-lived
Mississippi Sandhill Crane
Monogamous Change Mates
Great Blue Heron
Nest on ground,
Nest in tree,
Lay 1-2 eggs Lay 4-7 eggs
Parents take
chick to food
Parents take
food to chick
Young stay
with parents
10 months

Parents desert
young after fledging
(?? months)

Long subadult period
(3-8 years)
Breed at 1-2 years
Cannot perch in a tree Often found in trees
Crane Nest
Nesting Habits

Cranes are territorial nesters. They do not even allow the offspring of the previous year in the nesting territory.

Herons and egrets nest in rookeries with many other birds. They nest with other herons and with birds of different species.

Heron Rookery

Mouse over the photos below to learn more about a Year in the Life of a Crane.

Learn more about the cranes....
-Mississippi Sandhill Cranes    
Last updated: May 23, 2009