When Do Sandhill Cranes Lay Eggs?

Sandhill cranes (Grus Canadensis) began nesting and laying eggs in Northern America 2.5 million years ago and still to this day perform the same nesting habits across the continent.

Want proof? Fossil records date back well over 2.5 million years found in Florida by naturalists.

When spring arrives, mating pairs will begin to perform their courtship dances and form lifelong bonds that will aid their reproductive success.

Once conceived, the pair will work together to forage for pieces to build their nest with and then the female will lay their eggs. But, when does this occur and what else do we have to learn about Sandhill cranes and their egg-laying routines?


In order to produce healthy chicks Sandhill cranes, as well as many other bird species, incubate their eggs. By sitting on top of them and keeping them warm they maintain embryonic development and keep the egg in a particular position so it’s ready to hatch.

As soon as the first egg of the brood has been laid, incubation will begin and last for around 28 days with the rest of the brood’s eggs laid a few days apart.

Who Incubates the Eggs?

Highlighting their bi-parental care of their offspring both parents take turns incubating the eggs.

Interestingly, the pair will usually sleep alone at night as the female sits on the eggs all night.

During the day, however, the pair will share incubating duties and switch every two hours approximately but the female is said to occupy 70% of her time incubating her eggs.

What if One of the Pairs Dies During Incubation?

Evidence has shown that either male or female Sandhill cranes are able to incubate a nest and bring offspring up on their own.

However, it does make the task a little harder for them to forage for food and bring their chicks up without a mate even though the chicks are precocial, capable of moving around on their own and relatively independent soon after hatching.

What Months Do They Lay Their Eggs?

There is no specific month in which all Sandhill cranes lay their eggs.

Non-migratory Sandhill’s have the longest laying potential between December and August.

In comparison, migratory Sandhill’s tend to lay eggs in early April or May and have been known to create a brood as late as August.

How Many Eggs Do They Lay a Year?

Sandhill’s usually have one brood each year, with the same mate, in which they lay one to three eggs each time. The eggs are laid over a period of days in order for the pair to adjust to having eggs in their nest and incubating them.

How Many Eggs Do They Lay a Year?

No, you won’t spot a Sandhill crane nesting in your backyard. Instead, the birds prefer dense and extensive wetland habitats or marshes.

Here, the birds can hide their nest away and feel protected by predators as well as being surrounded by plentiful aquatic wildlife and vegetation to feed on.

They predominantly nest and lay eggs 300 yards from wetland perimeters for safety and to reduce disturbance to the nest and their offspring.

What Do Their Eggs Look Like?

Elongated and oval in shape, Sandhill cranes produce eggs that are olive and brown-like in colour with red and grey markings, similar to quail eggs but a lot bigger.

They also are about 90 x 60 mm in length and width, big enough to stand out to predators but not too big for the mating pair to sit on and incubate.

Where Do They Lay Them?


Florida Sandhill cranes usually nest and lay eggs from January to June, peaking in late February through March.

Spending the winter in the Midwest and Canada, migratory cranes lay their eggs and are abundant in Florida’s dry prairie region north and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Their nesting grounds have also been found at Cypress Creek South Natural Area in Palm Beach County.


Cuban Sandhill cranes are recorded to lay eggs between late March and April and are recorded to incubate their eggs on a nest specifically constructed out of tropical pine needles.


Returning to Wisconsin from their wintering grounds, Sandhill cranes tend to lay their eggs in April and May by fall, the adults and their hatchlings assemble in large flocks in preparation for their migration back south.


Due to their bi-parental care, Sandhill cranes successfully produce offspring every year. Together, they take turns to incubate their eggs and forage for food, giving them energy to bring up and protect their hatchlings.

It is clear that Sandhill’s don’t lay and incubate their eggs in a particular month of the year. Dependent on whether the birds are migratory or not affects the time of year they lay their eggs as they move to the optimal climate to raise the 1-3 offspring they are predicted to have a year.

Across America, Sandhill cranes are particularly known to lay their eggs in Florida, Cuba, and Wisconsin but across differing months of the year. 

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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