NEW BORN: Montana’s Sandhill Crane Babies

Protecting The Eggs

Protecting The Eggs
Protecting The Eggs

Sitting in the middle of the pond, rife with cut cattails, the exposed sandhill crane nest was constantly guarded by the alert adult cranes who took turns nesting on two eggs. A redtail hawk flew from above, scoping the scene for prey material. Canada geese maneuvered a landing on the pond. In hot pursuit, the adult crane immediately chased the geese away with tenacious running skill, giant wings flapping, and outstretched neck and beak, ready to defend her protected habitat.

First Born

The protecting adult cranes gave all their attention to the first born who flourished for twenty-four hours, having the nest and food for itself by being the only colt (a crane chick is a colt).

Secondborn Arrives

Not as coordinated as colt number one, the second colt flails with pink, ungainly legs as it takes an unbalanced tumble into the world. For over a day, sibling rivalry came to the forefront with big brother continually harassing his sibling. Parents were finding it tough to feed both, but after a day and a half of sibling battle, the two colts became best buddies.

Leaving The Nest

Within a few hours of the second birth, the adult cranes lured their babes into the water. They swam like it was an innate, lifelong adventure. Effortlessly, they manipulated their fluffy little bodies between the “forest” of cattails.

Feeding Behavior

Feeding two colts was a constant chore for both adults. Crickets, worms, and a variety of insects and even baby mice were on the meat menu. But when cleaning up the nest, shell shards were offered to the youngsters. Though less juicy and more crunchy, they added calcium to the colts’ diet.

The Comfort of Home

It was a strenuous ascent onto the mounds of downy feathers to reach the comfort of home. Every now and then, there were tumultuous moments of tumbling. On long wrinkle-skinned legs that were steadily becoming stronger, the top meant a warm domicile as the colt snuggled within the adult’s hearth.

Leave a Comment Here

Bella Gentry (not verified) , Thu, 10/15/2020 - 19:54
These are beautiful. I love the cranes and they nest near our home every year, but I havent been able to get that close. Thought of you when a marching band came up on facebook so I looked for you. Your work is beautifu.
Robin Lennemann (not verified) , Thu, 11/12/2020 - 10:36
Fantastic work, Carol. I laugh at the expressions of the parents in "Protecting the Eggs,"- they seem to say "Look, what we have done?" Your time and dedication to this project to photograph and show your audience the life of the newborn Sand Hill Cranes is appreciated. Thank you for your story and images.
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