The Sandhill Crane is an extremely tall water bird with long, almost shaggy looking feathers. It also contains a red patch extending from the top of its long, black beak, all the way past the eyes and onto the forehead. While it's body coloration can vary somewhat between birds, the combination of the red on the head and the overall size help distinguish it from other large birds.
In flight the Sandhill Crane is immediately recognizable by its wing beats, which are much faster while going up, than when beating down. While this can be difficult to envision, upon seeing it the faster upstroke becomes immediately evident and unique.