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Swaner Preserve's newest sandhill cranes are due to hatch soon

Swaner Preserve and Ecocenter

The sandhill cranes have returned to the Swaner Preserve and it’s expected that the most visible of them will hatch their two eggs in early May.

A nesting pair of cranes has returned to the same location on the Swaner Preserve since 2008. Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter Executive Director Nell Larson says this pair of cranes arrived in Park City from their wintering months in New Mexico in early March.

She says the cranes mate for life and can live to be 20 plus years old, but they likely stop reproducing in their late teens...

The pair that is featured on the Swaner webcam laid two eggs at the end of March. Larson expects the colts—or baby cranes—to hatch in early May.

“It’s actually more common that when there are two eggs, one of the young survive into adulthood just because of, you know, the risks and the dangers of being a tiny, little, young, pretty helpless bird,” Larson explained.” “And so that's always what we hope to see. We've had years where we've seen both of them survive to adulthood, and we've had years where we have been neither of them. It's just kind of a waiting game and a wait and see. Because this particular pair of cranes is getting older. We also don't know if those eggs in the nest are going to be viable. We expect that they'll hatch around May 2, and so we'll be watching really closely around that time.”

The public can watch for themselves by going online to the webcam. And the cranes haven’t been bothered by the recent snow.

“I always think it's fascinating to see these birds just hunker down and be covered in inches of snow to the point where you can barely see the bird,” Larson said. “But then they'll sort of like move their head or shake off a little bit. But they just stick through it. And they've, you know, basically evolved with these conditions, so they know what to do. The other I think, really interesting thing is just watching them, rearrange the nest, so they might nudge the eggs around just a little bit, like move them slightly, and they'll add a stick or like a, you know, a piece of grass, and then they'll kind of pick around so they tried to keep the nest in good shape.”

The link to the camera is in the web version of this story at kpcw.org.

According to Larson, sandhill cranes are one of the oldest living species with fossils dating back to 2.5 million years ago.

The Swaner Preserve she says has between five and seven pairs of nesting cranes.

“One of those is visible right on the edge of the preserve there,” Larson said. “And that's super special to have them nesting, you know, 100 feet from the Eco center. And then the others are further out into the preserve and sort of quieter locations.”

Larson says the cranes will spend the summer and part of the fall here before they migrate back to New Mexico – which is one of the shorter migrations. Many cranes she says head up to Northern Canada and Alaska to nest and breed.