Species Spotlight: Sandhill Cranes - Columbia Land Trust
Photo by Brian Chambers
Learn more about the iconic sandhill cranes.

Whether you see flocks of them filling the sky or foraging in fields, sandhill cranes have a majestic beauty about them that calls your attention. Since 2016, Columbia Land Trust has managed a 527-acre property in the Vancouver Lake Lowlands, a site also known as Cranes’ Landing that attracts sandhill cranes in record numbers. The cranes have adapted to these fields for staging and feeding making the area a major pitstop and wintering ground along the Pacific Flyway. To learn more about Cranes’ Landing and these birds, you can view the recording of our Coffee & Cranes presentation with Columbia Land Trust Natural Area Manager Dan Friesz where he shares his expertise in managing their habitat in the Vancouver Lake Lowlands. 

Identification 

As the tallest bird in Oregon, you can easily identify sandhill cranes with their long legs and neck. With their bright red heads, long slender legs, and distinctive prehistoric-sounding bugle calls, sandhill cranes attract the attention of avid birders and casual observers alike. You can often see large flocks of sandhill cranes gather at Cranes’ Landing, a Columbia Land Trust-managed property in the Vancouver lowlands.  

Life 

Sandhill cranes spend about 8 months in the Pacific Northwest from mid-October to April. Then fly north along the coast about 1,300 miles to nest in southeast Alaska and British Columbia. These birds breed and forage in open habitats such as prairies, fields, grasslands, and wetlands. The openness and visibility of their habitat allows them to keep watch for potential predators. Sandhill cranes are omnivorous birds with a diet of seeds, grains, berries, and even small mammals. 

Status 

According to Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, these birds are listed as an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species with a status of sensitive. Sandhill cranes are also listed on the 2016 State of North America’s Birds Watch List, which identifies species at risk for extinction without conservation action.