Florida is one of the few places that is lucky enough to get two sandhill crane populations. About 5,000 birds live in Florida permanently and can be watched year-round. Florida sandhill cranes are a bit smaller than some of their migratory relatives and can reach a height of 47 in (120 cm). Their wingspan is about 79 in (200 cm). Resident cranes can be found mostly in the marshes and swamps of northeastern and central Florida. Okefenokee Swamp, a 438,000-acre wetland on the border between Florida and Georgia, is the best place to spot these graceful birds. Because cranes like open spaces, they are also abundant in the Florida dry prairie region north and west of Lake Okeechobee. Look for cranes at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, and Myakka River State Park. Crane nesting grounds have also been found at Cypress Creek South Natural Area in Palm Beach County.
Cranes native to Florida can usually be spotted in small groups or pairs. They mate for life, females lay eggs in the spring, and colts appear in June and July. For the first few months, the young cranes follow their parents everywhere—what an adorable sight!
If you see a large flock of cranes in Florida, it's likely that you've come across migratory species. About 25,000 of them spend the winter in the state before heading to their nesting grounds in the Midwest and Canada. These cranes mostly live in freshwater marshes and prairies of Central and Southern Florida. You can easily spot them in the Everglades and even at golf courses. Cranes live quite close to people in Florida, so if you encounter them, please be respectful. And remember that it's illegal to feed sandhill cranes in the state.