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Nonprofit Spotlight: 2021 Yampa Valley Crane Festival

Sandhill cranes are large, ancient North American birds with fossil records dating back at least 2.5 million years. They’re known for their unique dancing displays and vocalizations that can carry for up to two miles. These magnificent birds and others that live and breed in the Yampa Valley of northwest Colorado are the reason for the 10th Annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival, set to take place September 2-5, 2021.

The festival will feature favorite crane, bird and nature activities, workshops, expert speakers and the award-winning documentary film The Nature Makers. Dr. Richard Beilfuss, president and CEO of the International Crane Foundation, will give the keynote address. Other notable figures who will be speaking include:

  • Steve Burrows, an acclaimed researcher, author, and past recipient of a “Nature Writer of the Year” award from BBC Wildlife from Canada.
  • Arvind Panjabi, a member of the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and cowriter of a recent paper published in Science magazine on the decline of birds in North America.
  • Paul Tebbel, crane biologist who will present a “Cranes 101” talk and lead the crane viewing.
  • Ted Floyd, editor of Birding magazine, who will head up the guided bird walks and offer a special presentation during a Saturday evening community picnic.

A highlight of the festival is the guided crane viewings led by Paul Tebbel. Guests are taken by shuttles to locations where they can see the cranes fly out from their night roost and feed and dance in agricultural fields. Paul explains the different crane behaviors and answers questions. Bird walks during the festival are also popular; each led by an expert birder and featuring different habitats and species of the Yampa Valley.

History of the Yampa Valley Crane Festival

Since 2012, the nonprofit Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. (CCCC), in partnership with many other conservation organizations, has presented the annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the presence of these birds in northwest Colorado and to educate people about the ongoing threats that cranes face today.

Over the years, the festival has grown into a four-day event. As part of the festival, CCCC presents a roster of world-class experts who make free presentations focused on their area of expertise. In 2020 the festival was virtual due to COVID-19. In 2021 the festival will, once again, be “live” and in-person.

During the fall when the festival takes place, the sandhill cranes stage or gather in large numbers in the Yampa Valley between Steamboat and Craig, feeding primarily in the agricultural fields and roosting at night along the rivers and streams. Crane festival attendees get an up-close experience of these birds, other wildlife and the land, and are asked to respect and conserve these natural resources in accordance with the Leave No Trace outdoor ethic.

The Nonprofit Spotlight is brought to you by Alpine Bank. Each month, we showcase the work and programs of local organizations to connect our community with opportunities to get involved. Questions? Please email us.

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