It’s that time of year again! I hope you like pictures of cute little Sandhill Crane colts, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of them in this blog in the next few weeks. Last weekend I started making the rounds, checking on known nests from previous years. Then my friend texted me saying “Mom is eating the eggshell!” So I hurried to that nest and found this family with hours-old colts. From what I’ve been told, both cranes hatched in the early hours of that Sunday morning, so I photographed them when they were less than a day old. They are just precious! :)
When I first arrived, both babies were out on the nest with Mom. The larger of the two immediately went under Mom. Of course! The younger colt was exhausted. It’s hard work coming out of that eggshell! He laid sprawled on the nest to allow his feathers to finish drying. Eventually he crawled up to do a nose-to-nose with Mom. How cute!
Sandhill Cranes are precocial, meaning that they are born knowing a lot about how to take care of themselves. They learned to walk as I watched – they certainly wobbled, but even the smallest colt got off the nest and followed Mom. I think I got to watch his first swim. He took a bit of a nose-dive as he stumbled into the water, but he picked himself right up and took a little bath.
My dad and I stood quietly observing the nest for about 45 minutes. Of course it was the middle of the afternoon when the light was harsh! We were surprised when Mom got up and moved off the nest. She probably wanted to stretch her legs after the long hatch night. The babies were left sitting high and cute on the nest.
One of the things I love about the Sandhill Crane families is that they stick together. The parents are always close by, watching over the kids. They let the babies explore but the parents keep them from getting into trouble or danger. Any time a squirrel or duck came by, the parents flapped their big wings to scare off the predator. The colts will stay with Mom and Dad for almost a year, long after they’ve reached the size of an adult bird. I was sad to leave but happy to know that I’d return to photograph these cute little fuzz balls…
Want to learn more about nature photography at Sandhill Crane Nest?
Check out my Sandhill Crane Nest page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
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