Birding Ethics: The Sandhill Crane Nest

WC and Mrs. WC were driving along one of our favorite county backroads recently when we saw this:

Sandhill Crane Nest, Southcentral Idaho

Sandhill Crane Nest, Southcentral Idaho

This photo was taken with WC’s backup camera, with a 35-135mm lens, zoomed to 135mm. The crane has nested just across the roadside ditch, less than three feet from the edge of the road. The photo was taken from the middle of the dirt road.

The tension in the bird –  to flee or not, to abandon her eggs or not – is palpable. She held, and less than 30 seconds after seeing her, we moved on down the road. This is the first Sandhill Crane nest WC has found, and it was found driving down a public road.

There is something called the American Birding Association. It has a Code of Birding Ethics. And that provides, at Rule 1, “Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger. Be particularly cautious around active nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display sites, and feeding sites.”

Apart from minimizing the interval WC was near this bird, what else should a responsible birder do in this situation?

Obviously, a responsible birder would not divulge the location of the nest. And you’ll notice WC has been even vaguer than usual about this location.

What else?

If WC had his way, barricades would be erected on the road to keep all traffic away for the 30 days or so it takes to incubate a Crane egg. Hatchlings are nidifugous (leave nest soon after hatching). A day after the egg hatches, the chick or chicks leave the nest. WC is admittedly a bit of an extremist here; closing a county road for a possibly foolish pair of nesting Sandhill Cranes could, WC supposes, be regarded by some as extreme.

What WC did instead was notify staff at the Intermountain Bird Observatory, asking them to do what they thought was best in the circumstances. IBO got in touch with the right people.

So what is WC forgetting? What could or should WC do to protect this nest?


2 thoughts on “Birding Ethics: The Sandhill Crane Nest

  1. Park you trailer accross the road 300 yards away and then your vehicle 300 yards the other way with a mechanical problem on each 🙂 Seriously … good job you contacted one of the two groups I would have the other is IDFG non game section.


  2. I’m not sure what you can do about this nest. These birds don’t seem to be very good at picking nesting sites. Here in Florida, I’ve seen them nest in swampy areas filled with alligators. And I’ve also seen their nests destroyed by rising water after a lot of rain.

    I guess the only thing I’d suggest is if the bird looks stressed, maybe move back. Settle for a poorer photo or use a longer lens.


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