Sandhill Crane Family

hoback river,noble basin

Sandhill Crane Family : Prints Available

Sandhill cranes with colts (chicks) feed in a wetland near the Hoback River. The area was severely threatened by planned industrial scale natural gas development and is now protected. A strong grassroots effort led to the purchase of the gas leases by Trust For Public Land, who retired them forever - giving the land back to the American people. The Rocky Mountain Population of sandhill cranes are Greater sandhills that migrate from winter range at Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico to Greater Yellowstone from spring through the end of summer, where they mate and raise their young. By September, these tiny colts are juveniles ready to fly 500 miles to New Mexico. 

While shooting an assignment for Trust For Public Land celebrating the permanent protection of the Upper Hoback, Dan Bailey mentioned sandhill cranes with chicks. I said “Of course I’m interested!” before he was done asking. This family was on a perfect nesting site surrounded by water in a marshy wetland, next to the Upper Hoback River in southern Greater Yellowstone. The colts (that’s what sandhill crane chicks are called) were feeding around the adults, who weren’t concerned with the two-legged observers on the hill. Their second colt is to the far right. They didn’t like the coyote chorus that started up across the sage meadow, but went back to feeding as soon as the concert ended. It’s remarkable to watch these tiny colts raise their legs and peck for food just like their parents, although the adults were helping out with mouthfulls of aquatic vegetation. I’m preparing for my first trip to Bosque Del Apache NWR, winter home of the Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) that migrates between Greater Yellowstone and New Mexico. I might even see this family at Bosque. Around 20,000 of these prehistoric birds make the trip twice a year, just like they did when they flew over dinosaurs. You can’t help being fascinated with them for their strong family bonds, grace, human-like characteristics, and resilience in such a rapidly changing world. And although sandhill cranes are remarkably adaptable to change, it’s imperative that humans protect the most important habitat throughout the migration route to sustain another million years of migrations.

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