Sunny Side Up – Baby Sandhill Cranes Hatch in Sarasota FL

Sandhill cranes are common in Florida. Indeed, they are so common in the Sarasota area that there are roadsigns in quieter places away from town where they are known to congregate. After seeing the the magnificent flocks in Willcox, Arizona, a few months ago, I was hoping we might see some sandhill cranes up close during our stay in the Sunshine State.

Sandhill cranes hatching area in Sarasota Florida

Well, my wish to see some sandhill cranes “up close and personal” came true in spades in the last few days as we became witness to the most beautiful little slice of life and glimpse of Mother Nature’s wondrous works.

A pair of these enormous birds decided to ignore the roadsigns entirely and build a nest in a most unlikely spot, sandwiched between a Bob Evans restaurant and a Lowes home improvement store in a very busy part of the city next to a tiny pond filled with lily pads.

Sandhill Crane sitting on a nest

Mom takes a turn sitting on the nest (the parents share!)

The parents were attentive to all the traffic and city noise around them, but they were surprisingly calm.

Pair of Sandhill Cranes with a nest

Dad stands watch while Mom snoozes on the nest (with one eye open)

When Mom stood up, we saw two little eggs in the nest. She gently rolled them around and then settled back down on them.

Sandhill crane checks eggs in nest Sarasota Florida

Mom rolls her two eggs around for even baking on all sides. Both eggs have pip holes in them!!

Now, this is not only a very busy area, with locals and tourists driving by all the time, city sirens screaming in the distance, and a general urban hum of activity filling the air, but a flock of crazy photographers and birders had taken up residence right in front of the nest!

Photographers and birders watch the baby sandhill cranes


When our friend and host first took us to the nest, we stuck around for a while to see if the eggs would hatch. No such luck. The sun began to set, and the babies were still in their eggs, so we took off.

When we returned the next morning, the photographers and birders will all in position with huge grins on their faces. The first egg had just hatched!

Sandhill crane with hatchling Sarasota Florida

The baby bird was a little unsteady, but for being just an hour old, he was doing amazingly well, sitting upright and looking around.

Florida sandhill crane chick in nest in Sarasota

Mama kept poking her head down to see how he was doing…

Newborn sandhill crane chick with mom

“I’m okay, Mom”

Sandhill crane chick looks mom in the eye

His little batteries were very small and needed lots of recharging. He’d look around for a few minutes and then he’d flop over and fall asleep.

Sandhill crane checks on sleeping check Sarasota Florida

While he was sleeping, Mom was eager for the other egg to hatch. She helped it a long a bit (we were all quite surprised!).

Sandhill crane helps chick hatch Sarasota Florida

Dad had been hanging out on the other side of the pond. He flew over to the nest and the two parents walked around the chick and the egg for a while.

Pair of sandhill cranes in Sarasota Florida with chick in nest

The baby slept right through Dad’s arrival.

It was amazing to look at these big birds and to think that they had been tiny little chicks once too.

Sarasota Florida a pair of sandhill cranes with chick and egg in nest

When the baby chick sat up again, the sound of camera shutters clicking filled the air as everyone holding a camera leaped into action, from the guys with the huge lenses and tripods to the growing crowd with cell phones.

Florida Sandhill crane chick sits up in nest_

This little guy will have a younger sister or brother really soon!

These chicks have enormous legs and feet, and the little chick tried to get them coordinated underneath himself to walk around. This was not so easy — he instantly lost his balance and fell over backwards!!

Sarasota Florida sandhill crane in nest falls over


Sandhill crane chick on its back in the nest

Oh dear!! Maybe the trick is to roll over…

Newly hatched sandhill crane chick just hours old

He finally got himself upright and situated over his two feet. This had taken a lot out of him. He looked around and let out a big yawn.

Just hatched sandhill crane chick 2 hours old sits up in nest

The audience of photographers were all chuckling at his antics by now. This little bird was just too cute!

“Who’s going to hand out the cigars when that other one hatches?” A guy behind me asked.

We all watched in wonder as this tiny creature that had been tucked into an egg just two hours ago made his way down to the water’s edge. Mom and Dad didn’t discourage him. They were busy eating his discarded egg shell and cleaning up!

Two hour old sandhill chick by pond in Florida

Two hours ago this guy was in an egg!!

It was late morning by now, and we both had hundreds of photos on our cameras. We decided to leave the scene and come back later to see if the other chick hatched.

When we returned later in the afternoon, the crowd of birders and photographers was even bigger, and we found out the second chick had emerged from his egg too. Mom was keeping a close eye on both of her new babies.

Female sandhill crane with two hatched chicks

The two little fluff balls sat side by side while we all said “aw” over and over as they fumbled around.

Sandhill crane nest Sarasota Florida 2 baby chicks

They managed to get themselves up on their feet and face each other, and the crowd gasped in laughing surprise as they began to spar a little and flap their wings.

Two sandhill crane chicks just hatched in Sarasota Florida nest

Mom poked her head in again to see what was going on with these two.

Mother sandhill crane with two babies in nest

All this excitement was a lot for a five hour old bird. The older one in front began yawning again.

Baby sandhill crane chick yawning in nest Sarasota Florida

Then he fell over on his side and crashed, fast asleep, while the other one looked around.

Sandhill crane chick napping in Sarasota Florida nest

After just a minute or two he woke up and sat back up again while the younger bird in back fell over on his side, fast asleep. This business of living takes a lot of energy for a little bird!

Pair of sandhill crane chick babies in nest in Sarasota Florida

The older in front couldn’t stay awake long either. All of a sudden he rolled over on his side and fell asleep too.

Newly hatched sandhill crane chicks nap in Sarasota Florida nest

We tip-toed away, and the other photographers began to wrap up their gear and head home too.

A little later in the day we snuck back to check on them, and the birds were on their own without an audience of people. They had moved about 100 feet from the nest to a new location in tall, protective grasses.

By the next morning, the whole little family was gone!


The photos here were taken with a Nikon D610 camera and a Tamron 150-600 mm lens and a Benro carbon fiber tripod.

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8 thoughts on “Sunny Side Up – Baby Sandhill Cranes Hatch in Sarasota FL

  1. wow, i am jealous also. we were in wilcox and were able to see a large number of sandhill cranes. it was the first time i’d seen them and now i want to see more also.
    we left wilcox and have been looking for more birds ever since. we’re near gulf shores, alabama now and heading to the florida panhandle. we found a great place in breaux bridge, louisiana at Martin Lake. check out Rookery road on google…saw some snow egrets nesting. quite exciting.
    just curious – what camera and lens did you use for these photos? they are fantastic!
    lucky you!!!!

    • Willcox was the first place we saw sandhill cranes too, and it’s really hard to believe that those massive flocks are made up of individual birds like we saw up close in Florida (our post from Willcox is here:

      Thanks for the tip about Martin Lake in Louisiana. Nesting egrets would be a real treat to see — lucky you!!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos here. It was such fun taking them! The camera is a Nikon D610 with a Tamron 150-600 mm lens on a Benro carbon fiber tripod (I added links for these things at the end of the post).


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