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Identification: Whooping Cranes & Sandhill Cranes

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Whooping cranes are an endangered species that migratory bird hunters may encounter. The Department believes that hunting can continue when whooping cranes are present as long as hunters are aware and diligent in their responsibility to absolutely identify their quarry.

While standing next to one another, whooping cranes and sandhill cranes can be relatively easy to tell apart, as shown below. However, hunters should be especially careful during low light or backlit conditions as whooping cranes and sandhill cranes will both appear dark and can look similar. If you cannot positively identify the bird, don’t shoot!


Snowy white and stands more than four feet tall, with a 7½ foot wingspan. Black wingtips are visible in flight. Adults have a red crown and are usually found in small groups of six or fewer and may be seen flying or feeding with sandhill cranes.


Solid gray, although it may look almost white in certain light. Stands four feet tall or less, with a six-foot wingspan. Adults have a red crown.

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