Sandhill Crane Nest Camera
From start to finish, our live-streaming crane nest camera recorded the story of Rocky and Athena’s 2021 nesting season. We witnessed Athena lay two eggs and then we observed the incredible patience and care that both crane parents demonstrated incubating and protecting those eggs over the next 30+ days. While one egg successfully hatched and produced a robust chick, the second egg did not. In addition to the scientific knowledge gained from this project, the public enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Sandhill Crane nesting in an up-close and personal way during a time when the cranes are typically quite secretive and hard to observe.
We plan to repeat this project next year but we need your help. We would like to improve our equipment and add new equipment that will prevent shut-downs and provide a better viewing experience. A significant portion of labor and internet costs that were donated to us this year will have to be covered by CCCC for the 2022 project. To make that happen, we are undertaking a special campaign to try to raise $5,000 for the 2022 Crane Nest Camera project. We have an anonymous donor who will match the first $2,500 donated, dollar-for-dollar.
Greater Sandhill cranes will return to the same general area every year to nest and typically build a nest in the same or similar spot. Nests are simple, mound-like platforms made of marsh plants, grasses and weeds piled on the ground in marshes or wet meadows. Sandhill cranes in Colorado usually lay two eggs in late April or early May and incubate these eggs for about 30 days. Both crane parents will help in incubating the eggs and caring for the young once they hatch. When the eggs hatch, sandhill crane chicks are able to see, are covered in down feathers, and are able to walk within a few hours. After about a day, the chicks will leave the nest with their parents.
Learn more about sandhill crane nesting by checking out our Nesting FAQs!
Athena and Rocky’s Nest
This nest was first discovered in 2020. We are unsure how old the parents are but to our knowledge 2020 was the first time they have nested in this area. In 2020, the parents were successful in hatching 2 eggs and raising both young past fledging (able to fly) and into the fall. In order to protect these nesting Sandhill Cranes, the specific location of this nest will remain private and cannot be disclosed, except that it is on private property in the Yampa Valley of Northwest Colorado.
In spring of 2021, we installed a nest camera at this nest and live-streamed the nest activity on our website. Here’s what some people had to say about our nest camera:
“It has been an amazing journey. Even my 7 year old grandson was involved by sharing one of the videos with his science class. They all loved it, especially his teacher!”
“Thank you so much for providing this amazing experience!”
“I very much enjoyed this journey with the beautiful Yampa Valley cranes.”
“Thank you so much…..I have been borderline “obsessed” with this opportunity and occasionally checked in with Athena and Rocky during the night. Thanks to everyone who logged in with your observations. I will look forward to next year!”
Join us in April 2022 as we plan to go LIVE AGAIN with ROCKY and ATHENA!
2021 Nesting Season Summary
Watch the Nest Camera Highlights to see all the excitement from 2021 in short video clips!
Athena laid the 1st egg on April 15th and the 2nd egg on April 18th. Incubation started after the first egg was laid.
Athena and Rocky both took turns during the day to incubate the nest, but Athena always incubated at night. The Changing of the Guards occurred throughout the day.
The 1st chick hatched on May 18th in the afternoon. We are unsure if it was the 1st or 2nd egg that was laid. The other egg did not hatch.
During hatching, Rocky stayed on the nest all day. He left the nest with the chick to feed with Athena and the chick then went back to the nest to incubate the other egg while Athena roosted nearby with the chick. Finally, Rocky left the nest to help raise their one chick. The 2nd egg never hatched, there was a problem during development of the embryo that prevented the chick inside from developing.
Watch their entire 2021 nesting journey:
Photos of the chick during and after hatching (by Abby Jensen):
Other Birds Observed on the Nest Camera:
American crow (heard)
American goldfinch (heard)
American robin (heard)
Black-capped chickadee (heard)
Common yellow-throat (heard)
Great blue heron
Mourning dove (heard)
Northern Harrier (heard)
Song sparrow (heard)
Wilson’s snipe (heard)
Mammals Observed on the Nest Camera:
This live video feed was made possible through grants provided by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the WHILD fund. Internet access for live streaming is provided by Zirkel Wireless. Camera installation and setup were completed by Photon Syndicate. Discounted equipment was provided by Colorado Electric Supply.