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Baby Sandhill Cranes

Updated on February 5, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

Birds and wildlife fascinate me. I enjoy observing them and photographing them wherever I go. I share what I learn here.

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 Allain

Click 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).

Sandy: The Sandhill Crane Who Joined Our Family (Northwest Reprints (Paperback))
Sandy: The Sandhill Crane Who Joined Our Family (Northwest Reprints (Paperback))

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)

The Cry of the Sandhill Crane (Camp & Cottage Birding Collection, 3)
The Cry of the Sandhill Crane (Camp & Cottage Birding Collection, 3)

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

baby sandhill cranes, twins, running
baby sandhill cranes, twins, running

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 Allain

Click 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.

Have You Seen the Baby Cranes?

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    • profile image

      ruth kling 

      16 months ago

      today i saw two older more gray chicks...yesterday, we observed two brown babies both in our yard on our cul de is exciting to observe them and watch them feed...the little guys keep flapping their wings...i guess this is practice...precious and fun...

    • tazzytamar profile image


      3 years ago from chichester

      Hat beautiful animals and how lucky you are to be able to see them in their own environment right next to you! I have to say that your photography is absolutely brilliant and I throrouly enjoyed reading your lens :)

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      4 years ago from Central Florida

      @Wilda1: Thank you for this first-hand account. I don't have the opportunity to see a nest this close. Your observations are very helpful.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have Sand Hill Cranes in my backyard. We have a wetland/pond. I have seen at least three babies be born in the 9years we have lived here ( we live in florida.) I have taken lots of pictures. I love these birds. I love their calls. I have pictures of the parents teaching the baby(at least 8-10weeks old) fly. I was amazed to watch them communicate to him , show him, and then watch him do it. It's been one of the best things that encouraged me to go back to photography as a hobbie. It broke my heart this year to see a dead baby in their nest, and they just left it, walked away with one baby. (The odd part is that there are 2ducks sitting in the nest now, one on each side of the dead baby chick) Last year, the Cranes walked away from their eggs (unhatched) all together. I was totally confused, but then I read that sometimes the babies don't hatch . The first time I saw them nesting, and got involved by photographing them, a gator or something ( we have Eagles, Red shoulder hawks, Ospreys, and more.) got to them and it was just heartbreaking to hear them cry out for days, and they would keep looking, and crying. I was hysterical crying myself. Weeks later, they were able to nest again, and had one chick .

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      4 years ago

      What a wonderfully educational and fun article to read. I had no idea these birds ever existed until I saw them in Tampa. Thank you, as always, Virginia for sharing your knowledge.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I came back for another look. The photos and videos are wonderful.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      @SheGetsCreative: I do feel fortunate to see them almost daily in my yard or when I'm out on the golf course.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great pics - how fun that you get to have a front row seat to the babies first months.

    • annieangel1 profile image


      5 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      absolutely adorable. There is a nature reserve here in the UK that rescues crane eggs that are abandoned, one they hatch the keeper dress as adult cranes to feed the chicks.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Cute, and funny. If they wen to school, they'd be the like tallest kids in class:)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      They are so cute! I love watching birds. How neat that you got to photograph this family.

    • WBT morocco profile image

      WBT morocco 

      5 years ago

      How nice to see those beautiful birds growing up

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      @Computersloth: Who can resist these cute baby cranes!

    • Computersloth profile image


      6 years ago

      Those are really cool. I like to take pictures of nature stuff, like lookin' at 'em too!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Absolutely outstanding! I selected this lens in response to today's "Honesty" quest. I can honestly say this page is so good I wish I had made it. You have set a standard for excellence.

    • Shorebirdie profile image


      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      They really are cute!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      Sandhill cranes are such favorites of mine. I was astonished the first time I experienced the sound of their voices (while living in Michigan). A great place to experience a huge number of these cranes during the winter is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. And, as you mentioned, Nebraska is the major happening place during the spring migration. I hope to travel there to camp out overnight in one of the photography blinds. Really enjoyed your photos of the young cranes and the commentary of your experiences in close proximity to them. A rare privilege.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Sandhill Cranes are so inspiring ... I actually have an art screen and an art bench which have these cranes.

    • JoleneBelmain profile image


      6 years ago

      Those cranes are just gorgeous... love the picture of the twins having a race. Too cute! ~~~~BLESSED~~~~

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      We have Sandhill Cranes on the grounds where I work. Haven't seen any babies but always the same 3 adults. Funny they will sleep with their heads under their wing on one foot in the parking lot and not have a care in the world as the cars drive by. Makes me wish my company hadn't built on their land.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      well i came home one day and saw what looked like a duck with long legs going into my bushes i folowed them and couldent figure out what hey were... i asked my mom and she said that thay might have been baby sandhill cranes. i googled it and yup! thats what they were! they were really cool looking and took big long strides when they ran.(:

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Love the photos. We have a Sandhill crane near here at a zoo, that is nesting. Hope to get a pic of the babies when they hatch.

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 

      7 years ago

      These babies are super cute! I hope to get out to see the Sandhill Crane migration in Nebraska some day. *Blessed and listed on my Creative Squid blog.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Lol some of your images are just so wonderful that I cannot help but smile looking at them. Beautiful.

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 

      7 years ago from New York

      LOL! They are so CUTE with those funny long necks. I was my first Sandhill Cranes last summer when we vacationed in Wisconsin. I love them!

    • Snakesmom profile image


      7 years ago

      My favorite is the picture of the little baby twin cranes, so cute. Nice work.

    • puzzlerpaige profile image


      7 years ago

      I've seen the Sandhill Cranes only a couple of times near Bunnell. A head-turning sight. Also, earlier this year we *think* we saw a Whooping Crane (one of the non-migratory whoopers of Florida). Those Sandhill Crane chicks are sooooo cute.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great lens...I particularly love the shot of the baby cranes running to catch up with Mama! Beautiful photos of yours and others on this lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • annieangel1 profile image


      7 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      love that mousepad - great lens

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      7 years ago from Washington KS

      I just loved this lens. Crane families are so interesting to watch as they go about their daily activities. Wonderful pictures. Lensrolled to my Sand Hills Crane lens.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: The baby crane usually stays with the parents for less than a year, then it goes out on its own. I haven't witnessed them driving the grown baby away, but many animals make it clear to the young when it is time to leave.

      With the cranes, the young crane doesn't leave until it is as large as the parents and you can hardly tell them apart.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We have a pair of sand cranes that we have watched raise a baby. The baby has gotten bigger now and the mom is being mean and chasing it away. Is this normal?

    • LisaDH profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your photos! The babies are adorable. :-)

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      Really beautiful bird and lens. The babies are so cute, especially when they run.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      The babies really are adorable.You pictures are awesome! I love the one where the babies are running to catch up with there mother. Angel Blessed and added to my Squid Angel Mouse Tracks lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      8 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I love this lens! Thanks for sharing your photos of the twin baby cranes. Very cool!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      What a happy story and I enjoyed see the baby cranes. It's really wonderful that you have the perfect backyard to enjoy nature. Have a Happy Easter weekend! :)

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      8 years ago

      Lovely story and photo's. It's always such a pleasure to witness nature like this. 5*****

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 

      8 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      We enjoy Sandhill cranes around our lake but have not been able to photo the baby chicks. You got some great photos and I enjoyed reading the story. Thank you for sharing this experience.


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