Baby Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane Chicks in Florida
We feel so privileged to see the sandhill cranes daily around Solivita and in our backyard. This spring, the arrival of the new chick seemed about a month late. We thought it was due to the extra cold weather we had this winter, but worried that something had happened to the eggs. There are coyotes around, also alligators, bobcats and even panthers. The last week or so, we kept seeing a single adult crane so we hoped that meant the other crane was nesting.
Yesterday, we saw the new chick on its first outing. Wait a minute, there are two chicks! Wow, our crane pair had twins this year. I admired them from across the lake. I hope my neighbors over there don't think I'm a peeping tom.
(above is my photo of cranes on the golf course)
Today they brought the twins over to our side of the lake. I ran out with my digital camera and snapped lots of photos. Even though they stay pretty calm and let me get within about 6 or 7 feet, my pictures weren't the best. I get so excited, that at first I forgot to put it in the action mode to minimize blurring from the moving cranes. Then I wasn't holding the camera as steadily as I should. Some were good shots though. I'm glad the cranes tolerate my papparrazi behavior so well.
Fortunately they returned the next day, so I could get some better photos.
Here's a photo that I wish I had taken. It shows the mother crane and a two-day old baby crane. They leave the nest within days of hatching.
2011 Photos of Sandhill Crane Chicks
2011 Baby Sandhill Crane - in Poinciana, Florida
Baby Sandhill Crane available on a mousepad by Virginia Allain
The baby cranes were quite late arriving this spring. This little fellow is less than a week old. Originally I saw a pair of babies with the parents, but one was curled up limply on the ground. The next time I saw the cranes, there was only one baby. The other one had died. How sad.
Sandhill Crane and Chick by vallain
Here's the baby crane from spring 2011 with his dad. When the baby sat down in the grass, the parent nudged it with his beak to get it to stand up. The young crane continued to sit, until the larger bird grasped its tiny wing with its huge beak and pulled the baby to a standing position. I'd not observed that behavior before. Perhaps after the loss of the twin, the parent was anxious about the baby laying around and wanted it to be more active.
More of My Sandhill Crane Photos
Baby Sandhill Cranes - Photos by Virginia AllainClick thumbnail to view full-size
Sandhill Crane Babies in Central Florida
2010 Observations of the Baby Sandhill Cranes
I've been following the growth of the baby sandhill cranes this past month. They were late arriving and I assume the cranes just postponed nesting and breeding since we had several freezes in Central Florida. Maybe they had eggs in February like the previous year, but lost them to the cold weather. I've been here for five winters and this was our first freeze. Anyway in March, there were finally little fuzzballs following the parent cranes around. Our pair of cranes surprised us with twins this year.
I took lots of photos whenever they came by the house. Guess I'm the crane version of paparazzi. When the babies were really small, I'd hear the parents making a purring kind of noise in their throats. This might have helped keep the babies close to them or it might have been a warning sound to me to keep back. When a parent would raise its head to full height and look directly at me, I figured it was time to back away.
Now that the babies are more in their pre-teen stage (no feathers yet), the parents let me get closer with the camera. They are hungry little fellows, quick to pluck a grub away from the parent who pecked around in the sandy soil to bring it up. It seems this year that the cranes are making pretty deep holes to bring up the grubs and making quite a mess of the golf course fairways. I'm careful when hitting the golf ball as I'd sure hate to hit one of the little guys. A golf ball at full speed could be lethal.
What Are Young Cranes Called?
They are called chicks or colts.
The Twins Are Quite Young in This Shot
They grow very fast, several inches every day. (photo by Virginia Allain)
What Do Cranes Eat?
I mostly see the parents bringing up grubs from the ground to give to the young cranes. Once I saw an adult crane leap up about 5 feet to pluck a lizard off a screen.
Since moving to Florida, I've read everything I could get my hands on about Sandhill cranes. You can ask your library to interlibrary loan these books (or buy them on Amazon).
The book functions on many levels; as a memoir of an Oregon rancher raising a family, as a history of Klamath ranching, as the story of one crane's survival, and as a plea for conservation. Dayton Hyde rescues an egg from a flood, gets it to hatch and then has a friend for life as the sandhill crane makes itself a member of his growing family.
Many black and white photos through the book show the cranes, the new chicks, and scenes of ranch life. The author describes the animal behavior and their interaction in interesting vignettes. One can't help but learn a lot about nature just from enjoying his accounts. The rescue of the baby porcupines was quite funny.
I'm glad to see it still in print.
(book review by Virginia Allain)
Intrigued by the Florida sandhill cranes, I wanted to find out more about these stately birds. Steve Grooms' book filled in some of the details about their nests, food, territory, love life, chick rearing, and other habits. Fascinating!
The book also covers the migration of the midwestern cranes and profiles cranes from around the world. The color photos are wonderful. (review by Virginia Allain)
Sandhill Crane Chicks Running to Catch up with Their Mother - Photo by Virginia Allain
Their little legs are no match for the long stride of the adult cranes. Usually the parents are quite leisurely in their progress, searching for food as they go along.
Sandhill Crane Nests - Photos by Virginia AllainClick thumbnail to view full-size
2013 Baby Sandhill Cranes
I'm keeping an eye on two nests this spring (March 2013). The one nest is in a canal near the Walgreens. As you can see in this poster, the cranes like to nest with water around them.
Sandhill Crane " Family Values" Print by GrandmaDee
The second nest is on the golf course just past the #2 green. As we drive by in the golf cart, we note that the crane is still on the nest. It's not much of a nest, just a few sticks and the crane covers most of it. The nest is on the ground adjacent to a small lake. There's no cover or brush around, just some tall trees. It seems really exposed.
Update April 2, 2013 - the crane has left the nest. We drove over closer in the golf cart but didn't see any egg shells. Hopefully the egg hatched and we will soon see the parents and the baby crane walking around hunting food.
Baby Cranes... Almost Grown Up
In November, I saw the sandhill cranes dancing. It was right in my backyard and a family of cranes came poking along. Their focus was on extracting grubs from the ground, so they poked and poked with those long beaks into the St. Augustine grass. Then one of them noticed me in the screen room. He, or she approached the screen, looking fixedly at me. Probably someone has been feeding them grain, which you aren't supposed to do. Anyway I feared it would poke at the screen, so I moved away abruptly.
At that point, the crane turned and flapped his wings. Another crane in the group responded with a wing flap and a hop. They both hopped and flapped for several minutes and then the young cranes joined in. These were the cute twin cranes from the spring, but now almost indestinguishable from the adult cranes. The four of them postured, hopped, flapped their wings and ducked their heads at each other with open beaks. Quite a display.
I wish I'd had a movie camera at hand. Since they kept up their dancing for awhile, I hastened in for my camera which was just inside. When I came back out, they had settled down and returned to grass poking. As I stepped outside the screen room to take a better picture of the group, they noticed me again. Two of them gave a token hop and wing flap which I captured on camera. That was the end of the show.
I'm not sure if the activity was from being startled by my original abrupt movement or what. Previously I'd thought the dance was supposed to be a crane courtship activity. Since this was a family group of four cranes, that didn't fit unless the young cranes were just practicing in response to their parents' behavior. Anyway I felt quite priviledged to have seen it.