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.
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 paparazzi behavior so well.
Fortunately, they returned the next day, so I could get some better photos.
The Cranes Construct a Large Nest on the Ground
Photo Gallery of Baby Cranes Over the YearsClick thumbnail to view full-size
2011 - Photos of Sandhill Crane Chicks
Baby Sandhill Crane - in Poinciana, Florida
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.
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.
Watch out for Cranes And the Babies in the Street
What Are Young Cranes Called?
They are called chicks or colts.
The Twins Are Quite Young in This Shot
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.
Even the Larger Crane Chicks Get Fed by the Parents
Reading About the Cranes
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).
Here are some titles that I'm hoping to read soon:
- On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America
- Those of the Gray Wind: The Sandhill Cranes
- Following the Sandhill Cranes in Colorado: Enticed into Birding
My Friend's Observation of the Cranes
My friend Wilda told me, "I have Sand Hill Cranes in my backyard. We have a wetland/pond. I have seen at least three babies born in the 9 years we have lived here 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. It's just amazing 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 hobby.
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 2 ducks sitting in the nest now, one on each side of the dead baby chick) Last year, the Cranes walked away from their eggs (unhatched) altogether. 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 maybe an eagle, red-shouldered hawk, osprey, or a coyote got the babies. It was just heartbreaking to hear the parents 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 that time.
Baby Crane Taking a Cooling Dip in the Lake
Sandhill Crane Chicks Running to Catch up with Their Mother
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 the above photo, the cranes like to nest with water around them.
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.
The Young Crane Takes a Year to Reach Adulthood
2014 - 2019 Photo GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Virginia Allain