Sandhill Cranes are comparable in size and shape to the great blue heron, and although they are similar, the two species can be told apart by head coloring and posture. The forehead of the sandhill crane has a red patch of unfeathered skin.
During the breeding season, cranes rub mud on their feathers with their beaks and are often stained a rusty color on their bodies as a result.
In Canada, the greater majority of cranes migrate through the prairies to winter in the southern states. Here In BC, the cranes pass through the central interior, migrating between wintering areas in Texas and nesting areas in the bogs and marshes of Alaska and the Yukon.
Along the coast, the cranes pass over Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii as they migrate to Texas for the winter. If you are up on Forbidden Plateau during the fall, you will have a good chance to see sandhill cranes as they pass overhead, It is an awesome sight to see and when you hear them calling as they fly by, you will remember the sound forever. It always gets me quite excited.
When it comes to nesting, cranes are selective and need very large territories (up to 100 hectares) in large open wetlands.
Nests are built attached to vegetation in shallow water or at least close to water. Both parents build the nest, a mound of plant material pulled up from around the site and anchored to surrounding vegetation. Both parents take turns incubating the two eggs. The young leave the nest within a day of hatching and follow their parents out into the marsh. At first, both parents feed the young, but the young quickly learn to feed themselves. They remain with their parents for the first nine to ten months.