Sara Reports: Bad News and Glad News May 9, 2008
<< Back to Update

As you read Sara's report this week. . .

1. What is the sad news?

2. How did Sara find out if the eggs taken from the failed nests were "good" eggs?

3. Describe what happens after pipping.

4. What good things have happened at the Wisconsin nesting grounds?

Meet Sara

Dear Journey North,

The Sad News
Since my last report, all of the nests have failed or been abandoned. On May 5 after my flight confirmed that 5 nests had failed or been abandoned, Richard Urbanek visited each one. He recovered one egg from each of 3 nests. Eva and Colleen brought them to me at ICF late on May 5. On May 6 Richard brought 5 more eggs that he'd collected from the nests of the last 3 pairs that had abandoned earlier in the day. Simple tests on all the eggs showed us if they were fertile and if they were alive. In the end, we had 4 eggs that were still alive.See more about these tests:

The Good News!
On May 7 two crane pairs went back to their nests and began incubating the dummy eggs we'd left in their nests. This was great so we decided to put a real egg back in their nest. One of the pairs did incubate the egg (which was now peeping) overnight, but they again walked away from their nest in the morning. Once again the egg was collected and brought down to ICF to be incubated.

But the egg won't stay here for long. On May 9 the four eggs from Necedah NWR nests plus one fertile egg from a captive crane at ICF will be flown to Patuxent WRC in Maryland. There they will be hatched for the ultralight part of the Eastern flock reintroduction. Two of the Necedah eggs are peeping and one has pipped, which means it's made a tiny crack in the shell as it starts to hatch out. The chick inside will continue to work on that crack until it makes a small hole, after which it will start rotating and cracking the shell all around the top of the egg so it can eventually push itself out. Five eggs will leave ICF, but it may be one chick and 4 eggs by the time they get to Maryland!

Summing Up the Positives
We are all extremely disappointed, frustrated, puzzled, etc. by all of the nest failures and abandonments. Even though we don't know why the birds are abandoning their nests, the birds did do some good things this spring. It's important to remember the the positives:

  • We had 11 pairs nest this spring and in the previous years it was only 4 or 5 pairs.
  • Many of these pairs were new pairs and first-time nesters.
  • Many of the pairs produced fertile eggs, which indicates they're successfully mating. This is also a good step.
  • Here at ICF we have 6 Whooping Crane eggs in addition to the one being sent with the Necedah eggs. Our birds are really just getting started, so we still expect a lot of whooper eggs.

We need to remember these good things even as we struggle to try and figure out what's going wrong. This is, after all, still a big experiment with a lot of unknowns. There's always more to learn!

Sara Zimorski, Aviculturalist

Nesting Summary 2008 >>


Photo ICF
Egg held up to a candler


Photo ICF
Floating an egg