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Sandhill Crane Identification

In some areas, Great Blue Herons are called "cranes," but herons and cranes are separate species. Also, Great Egrets may be observed in PA during fall. Herons may appear similar from a distance, but Sandhill Cranes are easily distinguishable from herons upon closer inspection. This survey seeks only Sandhill Crane observations.

Great Blue Heron

  • Thick black streak above eye may give appearance of a black crown
  • Blue-gray body
  • Black-and-white striped throat and breast
  • Long sinuous neck
  • Long, dagger-like bill is yellow/gray
  • 3-4ft tall; 6 ft wingspan
  • Often observed singly

Great Blue Heron In Flight

  • Neck curved into 'S'
  • Head pulled back against body
  • Two-toned wings (black and gray)
  • Smooth, deliberate wingbeats

Great Egret

  • White body
  • Long sinuous neck
  • Long, dagger-like bill is yellow
  • 3-4ft tall; 4-5 ft wingspan
  • Often observed singly

Sandhill Crane - Adult

  • Red crown lacking feathers
  • White cheek patch
  • Stout black bill
  • Reddish-brown or gray body (color varies depending on mud preening behavior)
  • Neck short relative to body
  • Neck not sinuous
  • 4 ft tall; 7 ft wingspan
  • Often observed in flocks or small family groups

Sandhill Crane In Flight

  • Neck held straight out from body
  • Short, snappy wingbeats
  • Wings flicked quickly upward

Sandhill Crane Juvenile

  • Stout neck and black bill similar to adult crane
  • Crown is gray/brown and feathered
  • Gray / brown throat and nape
  • No white cheek patch
  • Body mottled gray and/or reddish-brown
  • Buffy secondary wing coverts









Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797