Sandhill cranes are large birds, about 3-4 feet tall. The wingspan can be over 5 feet wide. .
Sandhill cranes have mostly grayish feathers-- the shade of gray can vary widely. The forehead has a bright red patch that is one of the most noticeable features of the bird. The cheeks are white. Although the feathers are gray, sometimes they can have a reddish-brown appearance. The reason for the change in color is that sandhill cranes preen themselves by rubbing mud on their feathers. The mud can be brown or red. The red mud comes from iron rich environments.