Catching Cranes

Last week we tasked you with finding a tiny Sandhill crane chick in a photograph and mentioned we were going to attempt to capture it to place a transmitter on it.

Well, you accomplished your task and I’m pleased to say so did we!

This feisty 3-week old Sandhill crane chick appears to want to eat Jeff. Photo: H. Ray

Jeff, Brooke, Joe and I planned our approach: Brooke and I walked into the field from the south, while Jeff and Joe approached from the road to the east. There was a marsh near the road and we didn’t want the parents to lead the chick into the marsh when they spotted us.

As we drew near, the two adults flew off and we began searching for the chick in the vegetation. After about 20 minutes Brooke spotted it hunkered down in the grasses and scooped it up.

The first order of business is to place it in a clean pillowcase to get a weight on it. This little critter weighed in at 665 grams. By comparison, the first chick we captured and radio-marked was 110 grams – waaaay smaller.

Next Brooke held the chick while Jeff and Joe prepared and placed the 2.2 gram transmitter on the chicks’ back. It will be held in place by eyelash glue until it eventually falls off. The battery life on these tiny transmitters is 115 days – plenty of time to learn if it survives to fledge.

The fabric patch containing the tiny transmitter has been colored to be the same color as the chick. Photo: H. Ray

Once the transmitter is in place, we measured the tarsus, which, along with the mass, will give us a good idea of the age of this chick. This guy had a tarsus measurement of 11 centimeters, making him/her approximately 3 weeks of age. This also means its parents continued to incubate during the mid-April storm. Impressive!

In total, we had this little fluffball in hand for less than 6 minutes. Once he was ready to be released, Brooke carried him about 15 feet away and placed his feet on the ground.

It didn’t take long before he ran away from the four of us scary humans. 

Off he goes! 

We’re happy to report both mom and dad returned to join him after approximately 15 minutes!

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  1. Susanne Shrader May 23, 2018 9:47 pm

    I bet that crane family are thinking what strange predators we humans are.

  2. Sue McCurdy May 23, 2018 9:40 pm

    Thank you for taking such good care of the Whoopers and giving us updates.

  3. Jane Maher May 23, 2018 9:14 pm


  4. Cheryl Murphy May 23, 2018 8:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Good work. Glad all worked out! Cute baby! Hope your wrist is ok Jeff!

  5. Babs – Seattle May 23, 2018 5:28 pm

    You guys sure gave that little Sandy something to talk about at the next Chicks Marsh Meeting .. the wild experience with those strange big things that don’t fly!

    What’s the matter with Jeff’s paw?

  6. Mindy May 23, 2018 3:06 pm

    Great video….he’s so cute! So he just starts calling and Mom and Dad find him?

  7. Barbara May 23, 2018 10:45 am

    Oh, the video was nice to see. Thanks.

  8. Elsie Sealander May 23, 2018 7:30 am

    Another great report !