Sandhill Crane Family with Adopted Gosling

In early May 2019, a Sandhill Crane family hatched a Canada Goose egg. This came about by a Sandhill Crane pair building a nest and a Canada Goose taking it over long enough to lay an egg in it. The Sandhill Cranes chased off the Goose, but allowed the egg to stay. The Goose was hatched, and then their Sandhill Crane egg hatched a few days later. The Sandhill Cranes have adopted the Canada Goose gosling as one of their own. They are caring for it along with their Sandhill Crane chick (which is called a "colt.")

The Sandhill Crane family hatched the Canada Goose egg on May 2nd. The Sandhill Crane egg hatched a few days later on May 5th.

I will be documenting the family over the course of the Summer and the Fall. It will be interesting and fun to watch this beautiful bird family!

Selected prints of this family are available in my shop.

The most recent photos and updates will be at the top of this page.

Photos taken Monday, June 24th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One and a half months

The Sandhill Crane family was walking up and down a small portion of the nature trail, occasionally going down to the pond to get a drink and poke about in the mud for food. The Goose did not go deeper into the water to splash around and instead stayed close to the shore.  I have heard stories that when the family is bedding down for the night that he'll take 30 minutes or so to paddle around on the pond, so he is still getting some Goose activities in.

At one point the Goose exhibited Sandhill Crane behavior. I've seen young Sandhill Cranes run and hop along the paths flapping their wings; this is a common sight. I watched the Goose do this, running and hopping and flapping along, a perfect impression of a young Sandhill Crane.


The young Goose running and flapping along like a Sandhill Crane.

Grabbing mom's tail feathers.

A Blue Jay flies by the family.


Photos taken Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One and a half months

I didn't see the Sandhill Crane family at one of their usual spots when I first got to the park, so I tootled around on the trails and stopped by again a couple hours later. The angry ruckus of the Red-winged Blackbirds drew my attention and there was the family, emerging from the reeds around the pond. The Blackbirds are none too fond of the Cranes as the Cranes will eat Blackbird eggs and nestlings.

The Sandhill Crane colt and the Canada Goose settled down for a midday nap, with the Goose staying near his Dad. The Dad soon settled down for a snooze himself. The colt was resting near Mom.

After 15 minutes or so, the Goose got up, waddled over to his Sandhill Crane colt brother, plopped himself down right next to him and got back to snoozing.
Sandhill Crane colt sitting down.
Resting next to Dad.
The Goose waddled over to be close to his brother.

Photos taken Monday, June 17th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One and a half months

There is a particular patch of long grass that the Sandhill Crane family likes to hang around in. Both the young goose and the colt were resting next to each other in this patch, with the goose occasionally taking nipples of the grasses around him. Mom was nearby preening. Dad was a little ways off, closer to the pond and keeping watch. I've seen him chase off other Cranes that he found to be  too close to his family.

At one point the young goose decided he was going to nipple at the colt's feathers. Maybe some allopreening (grooming feathers of another bird)? Or just bugging his brother?

The young goose grabbed the beak of the colt at one point. The colt asked his brother to knock it off (the goose ignored that message because he did it again a short time later.)

I left the family with the goose and the colt still sitting next to each other, with Mom nearby and Dad keeping watch.


Mom preening.

Young goose going for yummy grass.
Preening the colt's feathers.
Got your beak!
"Will you stop that you silly goose!" - Sandhill Crane colt
Mom preening. The young ones are off the right, hidden in the tall grasses.

Photos taken Sunday, June 16th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One and a half months

It was a chilly (mid-50F, 10C), rainy Sunday morning. I hadn't seen the Sandhill Crane family on  the golf course in a couple of weeks, but it was the spot of choice on this day.

It was raining the entire time but the family didn't seem to mind. I imagine finding worms was especially easy due to the rain driving them to the surface.

The dad crane was feeding the colt, while the mom was feeding the young goose (I feel like he's getting big enough that the term "gosling" may not fit anymore.) When both parents are feeding (as opposed to only mom feeding and dad standing guard), this seems to be the common dynamic.

The family sometimes meandered close to the road and the parents would go on full alert when a car would drive by. As the car passed they would go back to finding food for their young ones.

At one point Mom decided to cross over the fence to the golf course, flying over the fence while her young goose ducked under.  Dad soon followed by squeezing between the slats of the fence. The Sandhill Crane colt with its long legs took a bit of time trying to figure out how to get through the fence, walking back and forth while his family was on the other side. He eventually went the same route that his Dad did, stepping through the middle slats. And off they went onto the golf course to spend the rest of their day.


Dad goes on alert when a car drives up along the road.
The Sandhill Crane colt makes his way through the golf course fence to join his family.

Photos taken Friday, June 14th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One and a half months

The gosling discovered a rather large puddle and while mom and the colt were poking about for food around the puddle's edge, the gosling decided to take a dip. It wasn't deep enough to paddle around in but the gosling looked quite content.

The gosling's black and white feathers are really starting to show!


The gosling taking a quick dip.

Following mom.

The gosling and the colt both sitting down and having a rest.

Photos taken Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One month

On this Sunday morning the Sandhill Crane family decided to hang out on one of the nature trails. It's one of the busiest ones at the park and gets a fair bit of traffic. The gosling sits down when he can (his little goose legs must get tired), and this time he plopped down right at the end of a bridge. People wanting to get by waited for a bit, but when he didn't move, they quickly scooted past him.

The gosling followed them with a few nips at the legs. He's been nipping at shoes and legs quite a bit lately, likely due to the family being fed (which people are not supposed to do.) The gosling gave my leg a few nips but it didn't feel bad; it was like a gentle pinchy massage. But I imagine it's not going to feel the same as he gets bigger!


The black feathers on the gosling are starting to come in.

Sandhill Crane colt waiting for dad to dig up something good.

Gosling sitting by the metal bridge. People were stopped in both directions.

"You can't cross the bridge without paying the toll!" - gosling

Photos taken Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One month

The Sandhill Crane family is usually pretty easy to spot with the parents being four feet (1.2 meters) tall. I found the parents and the colt, but the gosling was not to be found. I was starting to get pretty worried the snapping turtles have taken out countless young birds — but after about 10 minutes (it was an intense 10 minutes) I spotted the fluffy feathers of the gosling! What a relief! He was resting in the tall grass next to his family.

After their midday nap they took to the nature trail, where the gosling took more naps, one under the park bench and one in the middle of the trail (where people were very thoughful and went into the woods to get around him.) I believe the gosling gets tired from all the walking the family does; he needs to take a lot of steps with those little goose legs of his! He has to have the beefiest legs of any gosling around.


The Sandhill Crane family doing some grooming. At this point I hadn't seen the gosling and was worried about what happened to him.

There he is!

Nap time for dad.

"I don't see what my brother likes about these grasses." - Sandhill Crane colt

Having a rest on the nature trail.

The young colt's wing. A protective sheath protects the feathers as they mature.

Resting in the middle of the nature trail.

The colt has something to say to his brother.

The gosling has something to say back.

Dad wait for us!

Photos taken Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One month

On this day I had a close encounter with the gosling while I was on the nature trail. A little too close in fact.

I shoot with a 200-500mm lens so I have pretty good reach and don't need to be too close to these birds, but at one point the gosling decided to charge down the nature path at me and attack my shoes! I'm pretty sure this is due to people feeding the family (which people are not supposed to do.) When I refused to give him any food, the gosling bit my calf! At that point I ducked behind a small tree and the gosling ran back to his mom.

The only time the Cranes and the gosling were interested in people was when they were on the nature trail. While in the woods, they were more interesting in eating grasses and poking about for worms. I'm hoping people stop feeding them, it's making a noticeable change in the gosling's behavior.

Besides being chased by a cute chonk of a gosling, the rest of the evening was pretty relaxed with mom and dad feeding both of the little ones.


Photos taken Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One month

It was a beautiful morning to be at the park!

The gosling has been the most active I've seen him, running about and investigating things he finds interesting (such as tree bark and various grasses.)  He'll wander off to check out something, but when he gets too far from his mom, he'll come running to her as fast as his little legs can go.


Photos taken Friday, May 31st, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: One month

After work I stopped by the park and saw Sandhill Crane family along the nature path, enjoying a beautiful Michigan evening.

Unfortunately, someone decided to toss the Cranes and the gosling some birdseed at one point. The Cranes are not supposed to be fed and his response to this was "I know, I don't care." There is a good reason for not feeding the Cranes; they can become quite aggressive. I've already had my camera struck by the sharp bill of a hungry Sandhill Crane this year (thank goodness it was my camera and not my leg!) The good thing that came out of this was that several people voiced concern over his actions, showing that quite a few people care about the well-being of these amazing birds.


A Red-winged Blackbird attacks the dad of the Sandhill Crane family for being too close to a nest. The Crane didn't seem to mind too much.

Waiting for mom to get dinner.

Dad with the rest of the family in the background.


Photos taken Monday, May 27th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Three weeks

If the below photos look a little hazy, it's because there was quite a bit of fog during the time of the shoot. I was at the park early (7:00 am) and the fog had not burned off yet, but the Sandhill Crane family was already out and about.

The gosling was nibbling on moss-covered tree trunks and dried grasses at times. The Sandhill Crane colt tried a few nibbles of grass, but didn't seem to be that into it.

The Sandhill Crane dad was keeping watch over the family while mom was digging up breakfast for the gosling and colt.



The Sandhill Crane colt was nibbling on these tall grasses.

Gosling with dad.


Photos taken Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Three weeks

Early Sunday morning I saw the Sandhill Crane mom poking about in the ground for food, but none of the rest of the family was around. I figured they were hidden in the tall grasses of the golf course. Suddenly the gosling popped out of the tall grasses and came charging towards his mom, going as fast as his little goose legs would take him. Once he made it to mom he seemed quite happy.

The gosling and mom strolled back onto the golf course and joined up with dad and the colt.


"Moooooom wait for me!" - Canada Goose gosling

Crossing the fence onto the golf course.

Dad and the colt.


Photos taken Friday, May 24th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Three weeks

Friday evening I stopped by the park to check in on the Sandhill Crane family.

I didn't seem them at first in the park, so I took some time tootling around on the trails. After a couple of hours I saw the family arrive at the water's edge of a small pond.

The parents guided the Sandhill Crane colt and gosling across the pond, which the Red-winged Blackbirds did not like at all. The Blackbirds have nests in the reeds, and they will fiercely defend them. Their attacks did not deter the family from crossing the pond, and no nests were harmed in the crossing.

The family then took some time to poke about for foodstuffs for the little ones and to stroll up and down the nature trail.

 "Hi Dad!" - Gosling

Red-winged Blackbirds attack the Sandhill Crane dad for getting too close to their nests in the reeds.

Mom and the colt watching the agitated Red-winged Blackbirds.


Someone's been having a good time in the water!

Those Sandhill Crane colt legs are getting long!

Photos taken Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Two weeks

I was at the park much later than normal, but I did stop by to check on the family and took a photo. Gosling and colt were snuggled up to mom and settled in for the night.

Photos taken Monday, May 20th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Two weeks

As I was driving along past the golf course to the parking lot, I saw the Sandhill Crane family along the fence on the golf course. I parked, grabbed my camera and sprinted up the hill to where they were, slowing down before close to them.

They were on the move, walking quickly and then deciding to cross the road. Myself and another person were around to check for traffic, and then stood in the road while they crossed.

About 15 minutes later, mom lead them to the nest. The gosling stayed every close to mom while she walked through the water. He was so close he accidentally got kicked a few times by mom! Poor little guy. He was okay.

Once near the nest, the gosling took a few dips in the water, climbed up onto the nest, and then shook himself dry.

They were settling down for the night early, but I wonder if the colder weather (around 50F / 10C) had something to do with it.

Before settling down into the nest the gosling decided he was going to attack this reed.
Shaking off the water.


Photos taken Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt and Canada Goose gosling age: Two weeks

Photographers have been banned from the golf course where the Cranes like to hang out during the day. Which makes sense because 1) photographers might beaned by golf balls (for the record I am totally willing to wear a helmet, armor, etc.) 2) golfers want to play golf (which is fair enough!)

I met a wonderful birder while walking up to the fence of the golf course where the Sandhill Cranes were hanging out. We could see the parents off in the distance, but they were standing in tall grass so that we couldn't see the little ones. Ever since the appearance of snapping turtles I have looking to make sure both the colt and the gosling were around.

After about ten minutes, Mom walked into the shorter grass with the gosling (yay!) The gosling seems to be standing up tall, maybe taking after his brother and parents. A short while later, Dad walked into the shorter grass with the colt (double yay!)

They walked farther away, down a hill were we couldn't see them, but at least we saw them for a short bit.

Not great pictures for this day, but it was great to see them!

Photos taken Friday, May 17th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Twelve days
Canada Goose gosling age: Two weeks

I got to the park just in time; the mom was leading her gosling and colt through the water to their nest a few minutes after I got there. Again the gosling was having a ball in the water, splish splashing around.

The gosling and the colt spent about an hour climbing over mom and getting comfortable. At one point the gosling took a quick dip and went paddling around the pond all by himself. The look the Sandhill Crane mom gave him when he got back made it look like he was in trouble!

The gosling is following mom to the nest, the colt is off to the left.

Getting comfortable.

Gosling taking a quick paddle around the pond.

Looks like someone might in trouble with mom! He snuggled right up to her and all was well.

Photos taken Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Eleven days
Canada Goose gosling age: Two weeks

I popped by the park later in the evening to see the Sandhill Crane family. It was right after workout class so I'm sure I looked and smelled great. But no time for a shower, there were birds to see! I watched Mom lead the colt and the gosling through the shallow water to their nest.  Once to the nest the colt immediately climbed on top of mom to snuggle down into her wings to get nice and comfy, while the gosling stretched for a bit before joining his brother.

The gosling swam easily after mom, while the Sandhill Crane colt floated and paddled its long legs to follow.

Made it to the nest!

Canada Goose gosling standing tall.


Photos taken May 14th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Nine days
Canada Goose gosling age: Thirteen days

There was some scary news earlier this week. As the Sandhill Crane family was settling down into their nest on the water Tuesday night, it was noticed that two giant snapping turtles were in the area. These turtles have been known to eat numerous cygnets (baby swans.) One of the Cranes flared out its wings to look as menacing as possible to the huge turtles to get them to back off. No one knew what happened to the family overnight.

I was awfully worried to see what I would find come Wednesday.  When I got to the park it was a such a relief to see the orange fuzzy colt tootling around, followed by his gosling brother! Both babies made it through the night! I observed mom keeping watch and walking around with them, feeding them worms. Dad showed up later, flying in from a short distance away.

The Sandhill Crane family decided to cross the street to another pond at one point. They were near the crosswalk (smart birds!) but I took a few steps into the crosswalk to help stop traffic for this family.

They made it safely across and waded into a tiny pond, but the Red-winged Blackbirds were not happy about that. These birds will attack Cranes if they go too close to their nest. I can't blame them; the Cranes will eat their eggs and nestlings if given the opportunity. The male Blackbirds  were sniping at the Cranes' tail feathers, and I even saw a female Blackbird dive bomb the Cranes. They must've been really close to a nest! The Blackbirds only attacked the parents, the colt and gosling weren't given any attention.

At this tiny pond the gosling looked very happy, paddling around in a tiny circle and dipping underwater. The colt dunked himself into the water as well for a quick bath. Both chicks stayed very close to the shore and to their parents.

I left the family shortly thereafter to look for warblers. I didn't see many of those birds, but I was very happy to have seen this family!


Mom and his gosling brother were walking down the path without him, so this Sandhill Crane chick started peeping to let them know they were going too fast.

"We're coming Mom!"

The gosling was running a little too fast and took a quick tumble to the ground. Luckily it's not too far to fall for the little guy.

The Red-winged Blackbirds were none too happy with the Cranes and were dive bombing them. The Cranes must've been close to a Blackbird nest.

The Sandhill Crane took a quick dip in the pond with his brother.

The gosling was really enjoying the water!


Photos taken May 12th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Seven days
Canada Goose gosling age: Eleven days

The Sandhill Crane family was on the golf course. The colt is already getting some height on the gosling. At one point the young ones had a race; the colt took off running, followed by the gosling waddling behind him with his tiny wings out, going as fast as he could go.

The race between the Sandhill Crane colt and the Canada Goose gosling was on! The Sandhill Crane was in the early lead, but the gosling overtook his brother by waddling as fast as he could. The gosling stretches out his tiny wings in victory!

Photos taken May 10th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Five days
Canada Goose gosling age: Nine days

Photos taken May 8th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Three days
Canada Goose gosling age: Seven days

The Sandhill Crane is hanging out on a golf course with its short and groomed grasses, poking into the ground with their long beaks. The colt is more active and the gosling is being fed and is eating worms. The gosling seemed to get tuckered out at times from all the walking and would sit down to rest.

This bug was too much for the colt to eat and he dropped it.

Photos taken May 7th, 2019

Sandhill Crane colt age: Two days
Canada Goose gosling age: Six days

This was the first time I saw the family! The colt was still learning how to use his legs and took a topple a few times. The gosling was much more active, getting worms from the parents and feeding on grasses. The colt was a little slower getting around and did not seem to be getting as much attention from the parents. I also saw the parents giving small sticks to the colt, which the colt did not eat.

Gosling snuggling up to mom. The colt is hiding under mom, staying warm. It was a little chilly out (about mid 50s F)


The Sandhill Crane colt on left, Canada Goose gosling on right.

"Whatcha got for me mom?" The Sandhill Crane parents have been feeding him worms and grubs, the same food that the colt is getting.

The gosling was pulling up and eating grasses at five days old.