Sandhill Cranes are primarily birds of open fresh water wetlands, but the different subspecies utilize habitats that range from bogs, sedge meadows, and fens to open grasslands, pine savannas, and cultivated lands. Sandhill Cranes occur at their highest breeding density in habitats that contain open sedge meadows in wetlands that are adjacent to short vegetation in uplands.
Mated pairs of cranes, including Sandhill Cranes, engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of coordinated calls. While calling, cranes stand in an upright posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display. In Sandhill Cranes the female initiates the display and utters two, higher-pitched calls for each male call. While calling, the female raises her beak about 45 degrees above the horizontal while the male raises his bill to a vertical position. All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, as well as wing flapping. Though it is commonly associated with courtship, dancing can occur at any age and season. Dancing is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and thwarts aggression, relieves tension, and strengthens the pair bond.
Nests of all Sandhill Cranes are usually low mounds built out of dominant vegetation in the nesting area. Typically nests are located in wetlands, but Sandhill Cranes will sometimes nest in uplands, especially in Cuba. Females usually lay two eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 29-32 days. The male takes the primary role in defending the nest against possible danger. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 67-75 days.