Past Nest Camera Highlights 2021-2023

Past Nest Camera Highlights 2021-2023

Nesting Season Recaps: 2021 – 2023

Rocky and Athena: 2023 Nesting Journey
The stars of our 2021 season nested in camera range again in 2023. The winter of 2022-23 was long and the persistent snow delayed nesting for this pair and many other crane pairs in Colorado. Athena and Rocky laid their first egg on April 23 and the second egg a few days later. The week before the eggs hatched, the water level rose in the wetland and caused the cranes to build up their nest with more cattails. On May 25th, both eggs hatched and Cinnamon and Sage were born! Typically, the eggs hatch on different days, but both eggs hatched on the same day this year. The next day, on May 26th, Athena left the nest with the two chicks. For the first several weeks, Athena and Rocky stayed in the general area of the nest, spending their days in the surrounding fields. At night, Athena and Rocky mostly came back to their nest to sleep, with Athena brooding their chicks underneath her wings and Rocky sleeping several yards away. Watch this recap for a full summary of this nesting season.

Watch Past Videos Here:

Wilma and Fred’s 2022 Nesting Journey

Wilma and Fred were the stars of the 2022 season of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition’s Crane Nest Camera. For about 30 days starting in mid April, Wilma and Fred took their turns incubating two eggs. But only one egg hatched on May 17, 2022, and chick, Pebbles, was born. Their nest survived numerous attacks from predators such as raccoon, mink, and skunk. Their nest survived several snow storms and hot days. Watch this recap of their nest to see all the great highlights from the 2022 Nest Camera season.

Rocky & Athena: 2021 Nesting Journey
The 2021 nesting journey of Rocky and Athena, the stars of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition’s Sandhill Crane Nest Camera. Rocky and Athena are Greater Sandhill Cranes nesting in northwest Colorado. They had a successful nesting season in 2021, starting with building their nest and laying 2 eggs and ending with one chick hatching and the whole family leaving the nest. Experience the thrilling moments and routine lives of Rocky and Athena on their nest, such as switching places, napping, raccoon encounters, mink encounters, geese hanging out near the nest, and hatching of their chick.

Look through the different categories of videos taken from our Nest Camera. Videos are of pairs Rocky and Athena who nested in 2021 and 2023, and Wilma and Fred who nested in 2022. Click on the title to view the video.

Crane Chicks Out of the Nest

Exiting the Nest One at a Time
Mama crane leaves the nest first, followed by one of the chicks. The other chick sits tight, calling repeatedly, before giving up and following the others.

Dancing Lesson
Cranes dance to strengthen their pair bond, to release tension, or just for fun! Here the crane parents give the chicks a dancing lesson.

I’m not done with you, Cinnamon!
Sibling rivalry seen close up! Cinnamon and Sage spar as they start their day.

Fantastic View of Crane Family
In this video, the crane family prepares to roost at a spot near our nest camera. This roost spot provided great views of the family. Eventually, Athena settles down and the chicks tuck themselves in for the night.

Stream Crossing 2
Cinnamon and Sage don’t hesitate to cross the stream after their parents lead the way.

Crossing the Stream
Chicks can swim almost from the time they hatch. One chick eagerly crosses the stream, while the second chick has to be cajoled.

Sweet Moments During the Cranes’ Morning Routine
As each day passes, the crane chicks are taller and stronger. This morning was particularly special as we see the interactions between parent and chicks.

Sandhill Crane Chick 17 Days Old Foraging with Parent
This Sandhill Crane chick is 17 days old and is foraging with her parent in an open wheat field. Watch the parent give food to the chick but also put food on the ground in front of the chick to pick up and eat.

Sandhill Crane Family Wakes up From Their Night Roost
Early this morning, the Sandhill Crane pair, Wilma and Fred, woke up with their 2-week-old chick, Pebbles, in a wetland near their nest. Pebbles was tucked under Wilma’s wing as she laid in the grass all night. Fred was standing several feet away all night sleeping.

Sandhill Crane Chick 10 Days Old with Mother Foraging in the Morning
This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is 10 days old. She is with her mother, Wilma, in the morning foraging near the trees.

Sandhill Crane Chick Splashing and Swimming in a Wetland
This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is 7 days old. She spends some time slashing in the water in a wetland close to the nest with her parents, Wilma and Fred. There are some good food items to eat in this wetland and the parents are seen giving food to Pebbles. Pebbles traverses the wetland with her parents and even swims a bit to cross it.

Sandhill Crane Family Foraging with Chick 6 Days Old

This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is 6 days old! He/she is growing fast and foraging with his/her parents in a meadow near the nest. Watch the parents set food in front of Pebbles to eat. The mother, Wilma, broods Pebbles for about 20 minutes on this chilly morning. (Note this video is longer: ~14 minutes)

Sandhill Crane Mother with Chick 4 Days Old Feeding in the Grass
This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is only 4 days old and is growing fast already. The mother, Wilma, is feeding Pebbles and showing him food items that he can peck at on the ground. The father, Fred, comes back to join the family.

Sandhill Crane Mother and 3 Day Old Chick Feeding in the Grass
This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is only 3 days old. It’s with his/her mother, Wilma, feeding in the grass in a meadow in Northwest Colorado.

Sandhill Crane Family With 2 Day-Old Chick Feeding in a Field
This Sandhill Crane chick, Pebbles, is only 2 days old. The family is feeding in a wheat field that was just planted with seed and is full of good food for both the parents and chick. By following and watching its parents, the chick is learning what food is good to eat.

Sandhill Crane Family with Day Old Chick Feeding in a Meadow
This Sandhill Crane pair, Wilma and Fred, have their day-old chick, Pebbles, with them. They moved a few hundred feet from their nest and are feeding in a nearby meadow. Pebbles the chick is in the grass near its father, Fred, who is on the right. You can see the chick bobbing around in the grass that is about as tall as the chick.

Newly Hatched Chicks In the Nest

Off on a Sunday Morning Adventure
View of 3-day-old chicks Cinnamon and Sage as they leave the nest with their parents for their morning’s adventure.

Preparing for a Good Night’s Sleep
In the golden sunset light, Athena prepares the nest and her chicks for bedtime.

Morning #2 for Cinnamon and Sage
After returning to their nesting area for the night, our crane family wakes up and starts their day.

Family Leaves Nest
Watch as Cinnamon and Sage leave the nest for the first time and head out into the wider world.

Sibling Rivalry
Sandhill Crane chicks can be aggressive with each other. Here we see sibling rivalry in action just a day after hatching.

Good Morning, Chicks!
Cinnamon and Sage are less than one day old but are already taking food (bits of eggshells) from their parents. Athena keeps a watchful eye on them as they move around the nest. She is not ready to turn the nest over to Rocky yet.

Introducing Sage!
On the same day and just a few hours after Cinnamon hatched, the second egg hatched. Welcome Sage!

Introducing Cinnamon Chick!
Today at 15:59:40 we got our first glimpse of Rocky and Athena’s long-awaited chick. Welcome to the Yampa Valley, Cinnamon!

Sandhill Crane Chick Just Hatched in Nest
Wilma and Fred, a Sandhill Crane couple in Northwest Colorado, are the proud parents of a newly hatched chick, Pebbles! The chick just hatched this morning, only a few hours ago and its head pokes above the cattails. After losing an egg last week and numerous predator attacks from mostly raccoons, it’s wonderful to see these devoted parents were successful in hatching a chick.

Day Old Sandhill Crane Chick in Nest
This chick hatched the day before, and just survived its first night outside the egg. The mother crane continues to incubate the other egg while the chick sits beside her. As the mother stands up to turn the egg in the nest, the chick enjoys its first morning wiggling around the nest.

A Sandhill Crane Chick’s First Night After Hatching
This Sandhill Crane chick just hatched earlier in the day, and it’s keeping warm underneath Athena, who is still incubating the other egg. Watch the chick wiggle around in the nest on his very first night after hatching.

Newly Hatched Chick Revealed as Parents Switch Off on the Nest
This recently hatched Sandhill Crane chick and egg are revealed as Rocky stands up in the nest to switch off incubating duties with Athena. The chick hatched only a few hours ago, but it is wiggling around in the nest as Athena turns the other egg that hasn’t yet hatched.

Sandhill Crane Day Old Chick is Revealed as the Mother Stands Up in Nest
This Greater Sandhill Crane chick just hatched the day before! Athena stands up in her nest, revealing the chick who is spreading its little wings. Sandhill Crane chicks are precocial, which means they can see, are covered in down feathers, and are able to stand within several hours of hatching. The second egg and egg shell of this chick are also in the nest.

Behaviors during Incubation and Nesting

Sandhill Crane Pair’s Egg Breaks- Father Carries it Away from Nest

Sandhill Crane pair, Wilma and Fred, had an egg that broke in their nest on Sunday, May 8, 2022. We do not know how the egg broke. They had been incubating the eggs for about 24 days. Watch the series of events as Fred learns about the broken egg then proceeds to take pieces and eventually the entire eggshell out of the nest. Wilma finally returns to the nest and finds only one egg remains.

Female Sandhill Crane Turns Her Eggs in the Nest
Every few hours, Sandhill Cranes will stand up from incubating their eggs in their nest. The cranes turn the eggs, tweak the nest, and spend time preening their feathers. This female, Wilma, is seen turning her eggs one evening.

Cranes Change Guards on Nest, Unison Call, and Add Material to Nest
The male crane, Fred, stands up to switch places as the female, Wilma, returns to the nest. Fred and Wilma unison call. As Fred goes to leave, he adds a significant amount of material to the nest while Wilma turns the eggs.

Changing Guards on the Sandhill Crane Nest on a Very Snowy Day

It was snowing all day and the snow is building up. The female crane, Wilma, stands up from her nest with snow covering her back and the male comes back to incubate the eggs during their morning switch of incubation duties.

Sandhill Crane Pair Unison Calls at Nest
The male Sandhill Crane walks back to the nest while the female fixes the nest and adds materials. It appears that they will switch incubation duties. Instead they unison call twice, then the male leaves and the female sits back down to incubate the eggs.

A Day in the Life of Incubating Sandhill Cranes
Learn what a typical day looks like for incubating Greater Sandhill Cranes. Sandhill Crane pairs take turns incubating the eggs in their nests for about 30 days. While incubating, the cranes sleep, preen, fix their nests, move around nesting material with their beaks, and stand up periodically to preen and turn the eggs. During the day, both parents share incubation duties, so the parent cranes trade places every few hours, often unison calling in the process.

Night Preening and Tending of Eggs in Sandhill Crane Nest
Several times during the night, Sandhill Cranes need to tend to their eggs by standing up and turning them over. They also use this time to preen their feathers.

Mama Crane Wakes Up With the Sounds of the Wetland
Listen to the sounds of this wetland as the Mama Sandhill Crane wakes up in the morning, fixes some feathers and turns her eggs.

Turning the Eggs in a Sandhill Crane Nest
While incubating, Sandhill Cranes will periodically stand up, turn the eggs in their nest, preen, and fix the nest material. Cranes and other birds will rotate their eggs every so often to maintain proper temperature and embryonic development inside the egg.

Changing of the Guard: Sandhill Cranes Switch Incubating Duties on Their Nest
Both parents of Sandhill Cranes take turns incubating their eggs and switch off several times throughout the day. When switching places, cranes often announce their switch with a unison call.

Predators at the Nest

Coyote Encounter
After hearing an alarm call from the Sandhill Crane parent, we see a coyote enter the wooded edge of the wetland. The Sandhill Cranes sound the alarm repeatedly, signaling danger as the coyote navigates through the woods into the wetland. Minutes later we see that the chicks have separated from their parents. As the alarm calls slow, it appears that the coyote has been scared off. We slowly witness the chicks emerge from their hiding spots and rejoin the parents. Whew!

Raccoons Near a Sandhill Crane Nest All on Single Day
There are several raccoons that live near this Sandhill Crane nest, and several of them (or few raccoons but several times) visit the nest on a single day in May 2022. See all the times these raccoons come near the nest and the response of the crane on the nest.

Sandhill Crane and Skunk Standoff at Night
A skunk comes wandering toward this Sandhill Crane nest and both become alert facing each other. Will the crane win and defend her nest without getting skunked?

Sandhill Crane Chases Raccoon Away from Nest at Night

Wilma, our Sandhill Crane female, deters a pesky raccoon from her nest. But wait for it because as the raccoon comes back, she chases it across the camera screen and the raccoon runs away from the nest. This humorous exchange is just one of the many raccoon attacks to this Sandhill Crane nest in Northwest Colorado.

Geese Visit Crane Nest as Raccoon Comes Near at Night
Two geese were hanging out with Wilma, the female Sandhill Crane, at night while she was incubating and didn’t seem to bother her. But then a raccoon was heard just off camera and the crane jumps up, spreads her wings, and runs off camera scaring away a raccoon. The geese flew away with the commotion. The female remains alert as the raccoon is seen behind the nest briefly then wanders off.

Mink Launches Itself onto the Back of an Incubating Sandhill Crane
This mink sneaks up to an incubating Sandhill Crane and jumps right onto its back! The crane jumps and both crane and mink go flying into the air!

Colorado Sandhill Crane Nest Survives Unbelievable Nighttime Encounter with a Mink
This Colorado Greater Sandhill Crane mama encounters an American mink while she’s incubating the eggs in her nest. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize this curious mink has gotten into her nest and is under her feet! The mink maneuvers around the nest, touches the eggs, and even rolls one! The crane can’t see or hear the mink due to the dark. Luckily, the crane prevails- she eventually finds the mink and uses her beak to jab at the mink and scare it away.

Raccoon Comes Dangerously Close to Getting Eggs on Sandhill Crane Nest
A raccoon tries to strike at the eggs in this Sandhill Crane nest and almost gets to them. The female Sandhill Crane strikes at the raccoon and the raccoon leaves, crossing the water to join two other raccoons and wander off.

Sandhill Crane Scares off Goose that Ventures Near Nest
This Canada goose ventures close to a Sandhill Crane nest with two eggs then gets chased away.

Sandhill Crane Strikes Raccoon that Gets Too Close to Nest
This female Sandhill Crane won’t let anything get to her eggs in the nest she is incubating. Watch this Sandhill Crane thrust her bill and strike the raccoon that comes too close to her nest.

Sandhill Crane vs Raccoon
How a sandhill crane reacts when a raccoon comes too close to its nest.


The Laying of a Sandhill Crane Egg
Have you ever seen a sandhill crane lay an egg? Well now you can watch the process of a crane laying her second egg in her nest!

The First Sandhill Crane Egg is Laid
This Sandhill Crane just laid the first egg in her nest within the last few hours. As she stands up, you can see the egg that she is already starting to incubate.

Nest Building

Building Nest Higher
As the water level rises quickly around the cranes’ nest in 2023, the cranes build their nest higher to compensate for the high water. It is advantageous that the eggs are expected to hatch soon!

Sandhill Crane Pair Builds their Nest

It’s mid-April and the start of the 2022 Sandhill Crane nesting season, and Fred and Wilma are actively building their nest. Both the male and female spent over an hour adding material to their nest. The male stayed on the outskirts of the nest and the female took care to arrange the material on the nest itself. It won’t be long before these cranes start laying eggs.

Sandhill Crane Nest Building
Watch this short clip of a Greater Sandhill Crane pair building their nest in Northwest Colorado. Both parents help to build the nest using material they find right by the nest.

Behaviors Before Nesting

Sandhill Cranes Preening and Painting their Feathers

Before nesting, Sandhill Cranes take the time to paint their feathers with iron-rich mud. This mud turns their feathers into the rust-color you see during the spring and summer. Otherwise, Sandhill Cranes feathers are gray. Cranes typically paint their feathers for camouflage during the nesting season, but it may also have benefits for reducing mites. Cranes, like other birds, also spend time preening and fixing their feathers.

Sandhill Crane Copulation
The act of copulation is quick for Sandhill Cranes like for other birds. The female is the one spreading her wings while the male mounts.

Sandhill Crane Unison Calling
Sandhill Crane pairs give unison calls for a variety of reasons. When calling, the male will point his neck and bill straight up to the sky and will call singularly while the female responds with two notes and points the bill more horizontally.

Sandhill Crane Threat Displays
Two different pairs are vying for territory. Watch as the cranes exhibit a rustle threat, crouch threat, and unison call.

Sandhill Cranes Waking up from their Night Roost
A pair of Sandhill Cranes wakes up from their night roost one cold April morning in Northwest Colorado. They spend time preening their feathers and calling before walking off.

Other Wetland Animals

Elk seen on Nest Camera for the First Time
A herd of 7 elk wander through the edge of our crane family’s territory.

Deer Runs Off as Sandhill Cranes Call and Switch Incubation Duties
A wild morning as a mule deer comes too close to this Sandhill Crane nest. The female crane starts calling, the male crane comes back, and the deer runs off. All in time for the male to take over incubation duties on the nest.

Gadwall Pair Visits Nesting Cranes
In this video, a pair of Gadwall (Mareca strepera) can be seen swimming and feeding in the water next to a Sandhill Crane nest as the crane makes adjustments to the nest.

White Pelicans in Northwest Colorado
A group of American White Pelicans took over the spotlight on our Nest Camera one day in May 2022. What other waterfowl do you see that are enjoying this flooded field/wetland area near our Sandhill Crane nest?

Great Blue Heron Catches a Frog at Night
This Great Blue Heron was seen on our Crane Nest Camera one night catching a frog in shallow water. He takes a minute or two before swallowing it whole.

Geese with Goslings Swim by Crane Nest
As the Sandhill Crane sits on his nest, two geese with four goslings swim by.

All Nest Camera videos © 2023 Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. All rights reserved.

Thank you to our sponsors

The 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. Updated equipment was possible because of generous individual donors. Thank you also to CCCC staff and volunteers for their tech support. Thank you to all our wonderful viewers without which this camera would not exist.