Nesting Sandhill Cranes

While hiking along the Eagle Pole Trail in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Lassen County CA) a sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis) began distraction maneuvers in the grassland to one side of the trail. I snapped a couple pictures and then, believing there was a nest nearby, we continued on our way so as not to disturb the nest, wherever it was. Returning to the car a couple hours later, Leonard suddenly said, “There is the sandhill crane nest.” In in the rushes about two feet off the trail was a sandhill crane on a nest. Because we were not looking for the nest we would never have noticed it if not for the red head that caught Leonard’s eye. Again, after very quickly photographing the crane, we resumed our walk.

Sandhill cranes nest in shallow wetlands. The mounded nests are constructed from the dominant vegetation – reeds, cattails, sedges and grasses. The foundation is formed from larger material and contains a cup-shaped center lined with small stems, twigs and grasses. Sandhill crane nests can be on solid ground or over water, anchored to the vegetation. Both sexes participate in nest construction.

One to three pale brownish yellow to olive eggs with irregular grey or brown markings are laid. Both parents share incubation duties, with the female assuming more responsibility. In 28 to 32 days a cinnamon-colored chicks emerge.

If Leonard and I are fortunate we may see this pair’s chicks on one of our future hikes along that trail.

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