Bird is the word: Yampa Valley Crane Festival spreads its wings Aug. 29 |

Bird is the word: Yampa Valley Crane Festival spreads its wings Aug. 29

"Nature's Grace" by Kathy Simpson is one of many photos inspired by Greater Sandhill Cranes as part of the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.
Courtesy Photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The eighth annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival takes place Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 in Steamboat Springs and Hayden. The festival celebrates the majestic Greater Sandhill Cranes as they migrate through the Yampa Valley with guided crane viewings, expert speakers, films, bird and nature walks, workshops, live raptors, a live raptor photo shoot, children’s activities and more. 

The festival’s keynote speaker is Kerryn Morrison of South Africa, Manager of the African Crane Conservation Program for the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust. Kerryn’s talk will focus on Africa’s four resident, threatened crane species — Blue, Grey Crowned, Black Crowned and Wattled Cranes.

In addition, acclaimed artist, naturalist and author Julie Zickefoose,will introduce her soon-to-be-released book, “Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay.” More than a wildlife rehab story, it is the story of life, love, dealing with great loss and finding grace and redemption in bonding with a wild bird.

Naturalists and self-described “bird nerds” Sandra Noll and Erv Nichols will present a talk on hummingbirds of the Yampa Valley, followed by a Hummingbird and Hummingbird Moth Walk led by Ted Floyd, editor of Birding magazine. Ted and his son, Andrew, are also scheduled to introduce Ted’s new book, “How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding.”

John Azua, Denver Zoo’s curator of birds, will ponder the mystery of why there are no crane species inhabiting South and Central America. He will also discuss the initial stages of Denver Zoo’s Junin Lake Waterbird Project taking place in the high Andean riparian ecosystem of South America. A talk about cranes and birds as symbols in African cultures will be given by Pam Liu. And, Chuck Cooper, CEO of the Nebraska Crane Trust will present a short film and talk about “The Great Migration, How the Crane Trust manages and saves habitat for Sandhill Cranes.”

“The upcoming Yampa Valley Crane Festival, sponsored by the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition is a family-friendly, four day event that will appeal to everyone from the professional birder to the casual wildlife watcher. It seeks to educate the public about cranes and to emphasize conservation of the special habitat that supports the cranes and the many other species of birds and wildlife in Northwest Colorado,” Azua said.

Sure to be a crowd pleaser, HawkQuest will have an educational booth where festival attendees can visit with live raptors, including an eagle, an owl, a falcon, a Harris Hawk and all four buteos of Colorado — Red-tailed, Swainson’s, Ferruginous, Rough-legged. HawkQuest will also offer a special live raptor photo shoot- a session geared for photographers at all levels — and a presentation starring the buteos of Colorado.

The festival presents a special screening of the film “Journey of the Whooping Crane,” a natural history documentary illustrating the remarkable life story of Whooping Cranes. Other films that will be shown during the festival include “Lost Bird Project,” the true story of artist Todd McGrain’s efforts to create bronze sculptures of five extinct birds species and install them where these birds were last seen in the wild; and the latest version of the award-winning documentary “Beyond Borders” — formerly “Free Like a Crane” — by French filmmakers Maxence Lamoureux and Arnaud Devroute featuring Eurasian Cranes and their migration from Estonia to Ethiopia. More than a nature film, the story presents a deeper cultural background while looking at the meaning of cranes for humans in their migration pathway.

Additional festival highlights include guided crane viewings, guided bird walks in some of the Yampa Valley’s most magnificent settings, birding by pontoon boat at Steamboat Lake, a community picnic at The Nature Conservancy’s historic Carpenter Ranch, a sketch-a-bird session led by Julie Zickefoose that includes live birds and a free concert by Yer State Birds. An optics booth and an “Optics 101” talk will be presented by Chip Clouse of Front Range Birding Company.

Greater Sandhill Cranes are an iconic species of the Yampa Valley and Northwest Colorado. For years a group of enthusiastic birders and nature lovers gathered each fall at a small ranch near Hayden to watch the cranes. The sights and sounds of these spectacular birds on their fall staging ground in the Yampa Valley led some to dream about an event in which locals and tourists would gather together to learn about this population of cranes and to celebrate their presence in Northwest Colorado. In 2012, Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. turned the dream into a reality with the inaugural Yampa Valley Crane Festival.

Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition is dedicated to the conservation and protection of Greater Sandhill Cranes in Colorado. The Yampa Valley Crane Festival is presented by CCCC, with help from gold sponsor Mountain Valley Bank; silver sponsors Abby Jensen Photography and Paws and Claws; and bronze sponsors David Lamb/Edward Jones, Off the Beaten Path, Photo Express House, Butcherknife Brewery, Elk Pet and Ranch, Carl’s Tavern, Keller Law and Truffle Pig. Festival Partners include the Bud Werner Memorial Library, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, City of Steamboat Springs/Steamboat in the Summertime, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, International Crane Foundation, PhotoGraphicsArt, The Nature Conservancy, Yampa Valley Land Trust, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, USDA Forest Service, Yampatika, and many other local businesses and organizations.

Resort Lodging Company is the official lodging partner for the 2019 Yampa Valley Crane Festival and will be donating a percentage of proceeds to the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. Lodging reservations for the festival can be made at or by calling 970-761-2355.

Yampa Valley Crane Festival’s daily schedule of events is posted at

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