Class of 2009 in Florida
Feb. 26, 2010
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Chassahowitzka NWR

How important is paying close attention to the colors and the transmitters on each of a crane's legs? Very important! What do you notice about the bands for each pair below?

ICF aviculturalist Sara is Winter Management co-leader at Chass with Richard Urbanek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Senior Project Biologist. Tracking Crew Chief Eva and tracker Matt are with them. They'll all take off to track the birds when migration begins.

Photo Eva Szyszkoski. ICF

Still hanging around the pen are male #105 and his mate, 501. Caretakers make sure the older birds don't take the juveniles' food or disturb them.

"The cranes above appear to have the same banding code," explains Sara. "While they do have the same colors, the transmitter and bands are on opposite legs, making them unique and separate banding codes." Who are these cranes?
White/green/red. "These two both have the same colors but the transmitter and bands are on opposite legs, making them unique and separate banding codes." Who are these cranes?

St. Marks NWR
Last time we told you about the youngsters' lesson in safe roosting at night. Last week the St. Marks Ten got their first "lesson" in how to eat the most important food in a crane's winter diet: blue crabs. at Aransas the parents show the chicks how to eat blue crabs. But for the ultralight-led chicks, it’s up to the "costume." Brooke and Scott Terrell from Disney Animal Kingdom brought the chicks seven scuttling, pinching, eye-popping blue clawed crabs in a bucket. Brooke describes the event:

"At first it was a standoff as we emptied the bucket at the edge of the pen pond and the score stood at 0-0. Both teams eyed each other with curiosity, wonder and suspicion for a minute or two until #910, his beak, as always, the hair trigger, began jack hammering against the back of the first crab. Then #906 took aim at another crab, beaked its leg and shook it and all that was attached to it back and forth, as first one leg then another separated and became food. Soon the rest of the chicks joined in, pulling and pounding, shaking and breaking. #911 and #918 tag-teamed one crab while #914 flipped another, body slamming it on the bank and pounding his beak through it shell, thus discovering the weakness in the crab’s considerable defenses and the best technique to arrive at the mother lode of meat. The score was now Birds 7, Crabs 0. Some days, it just doesn’t pay to be a crab."


Photo Mark Chenoweth,
Whooper Happenings

Operation Migration's Brooke Pennypacker leads the winter team that is monitoring the 10 juvenile Whooping cranes at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.