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Fast Fact: Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill cranes are among the oldest birds on Earth! Fossils of these birds dating back 2.5 million years have been found in Florida. These birds are so old that they are considered one of the most successful life forms on Earth. They have outlasted more than 99% of all the species that have ever existed.

Two sandhill cranes standing in shallow water with one with its wings outstretched.
Sandhill cranes. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Sandhill cranes aren’t just old; they are big too. They can stand as high as 4 feet tall, and their wingspan can be more than 5 feet! Here in Illinois, we mostly see sandhill cranes during their spring and fall migrations, although some of the cranes do breed here in the summer. During their migrations, we often hear them before they see them. They have a large honking call that can be heard from as far as 2½ miles away.


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