Sandhill Cranes Mate For Life

The majestic sandhill crane.

This 2017 breeding season many sandhill cranes made a Florida inland marsh their breeding home. There were rock island beds to keep their nests relatively safe from coyotes, bobcats and other ground predators but the attentive parents still had many dangers to face every day.

I set up my hidden blind area at the rounded tip of a land jetty that allowed me to observe one particular mating pair. Their colorings were significantly different as well as their nesting behaviors so it was easy for me to tell them apart whether they were together or one of them was off taking a break from the two eggs they were caring for.
On March 31st the eggs hatched and two colts were born. Within 8 to 12 hours both little ones were being led away from the nest by the parents, across the muddy marsh to begin their rigorous struggle and perseverance for what would be a life of survival. The first trek to the edges of the marsh bank for the two tiny birds was amazing. With Mom and Dad urging them forward they would drop from exhaustion but the family bond of encouragement made them stronger as they struggled through the muck in preparation for life in the wild. 
The siblings bonded immediately and at four days old when the weaker of the two was having difficulty keeping up, the stronger one would rush to the rescue and insist the little one keep moving. It was incredibly touching to watch the dynamics and the roles they assumed as one family.
Every morning at sunrise the family left the nesting site for long treks through the forest. 
As of April they had one surviving colt that was doing quite well despite the fact that it was the weaker and smaller of the two hatchlings. I watched it start to fly just a little to keep up with the parents. The family of three made it through the season and I returned often to witness the love, knowledge and survival skills they imparted upon their colt as she grew into her legs and became as beautiful as her Mom and Dad. 
As this noble and elegant family continues to make their way through life I hope to see them again soon.


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