Tag Archives: Missouri Cranes

Cranes of Missouri (2 Species to Know)

Cranes are among the largest and most noticeable birds in North America. These birds are always impressive to see when out birding and can turn up in some places you wouldn’t expect to see these tall, regal birds. In North America there are two crane species, and both of them can be found in Missouri. Here is everything you need to know about those two species.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer

Sandhill Cranes have a mostly gray colored body with tan color mixed in. During the warmer months they typically are more tan than they are gray. They have a long neck and bill with white cheeks and red on top of their head.

Sandhill Crane chicks are a yellowish tan color and can often be seen tagging along with the adult parents.


Sandhill Cranes winter in a few different areas around North America including northern Mexico, southern Texas, Florida, parts of California, parts of southern Louisiana, and other areas across the Great Plains states. In spring, they start heading north to breed in the northern United States and southern Canada. There are a few places where Sandhill Cranes stage prior to migration where they can be seen in absolutely massive numbers. Most of these areas are in the upper Midwest in states such as Minnesota and North Dakota.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Sandhill Cranes eat a wide variety of different food items. Much of their diet consists of plant matter such as tubers, berries, and seeds, but they also eat small vertebrates, insects and other invertebrates. Sandhill Cranes forage in shallow water as well as in farm fields where they eat grains from crops.

Where to Find This Bird

Sandhill Cranes can be seen in many different places. Some of the most common areas to find this species are shallow water marshes and open fields. However, Sandhill Cranes also show up on lawns in neighborhoods and even in parking lots in cities where they casually stroll around, often to the surprise of humans.

Whooping Crane (Rare)

Whooping Crane – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer

Whooping Cranes are absolutely massive, reaching heights of around five feet. They have a clean white body and red that covers their face and extends along the jaw line and on the top of the head. In flight, these cranes show black on the wing tips.


The Whooping Cranes range is a bit complicated since they are actually split up into different populations. There are nonmigratory populations in Louisiana and Florida and migratory populations that winter in Florida and Texas and then migrate to Wisconsin and Canada respectively.

Diet and Foraging Habits

The large size of the Whooping Crane means they can eat many different types of animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. They not only eat animals however, but also various plant material, both aquatic and terrestrial.

Where to Find This Bird

Whooping Cranes are most commonly found in marshland where they wade into water in search of food. Along their migratory routes they are seen in fields and wet grasslands. During their wintering times, they also reside in coastal waters and saltmarshes.


Cranes are spectacular birds to see as an avid birder or just a casual observer. Knowing where to expect them and which species are likely to be in your state and region can make it much easier to find and identify them.

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