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Lesson One: A Safe Roost at Night
A big pile of oyster shells is just below the water’s surface in one of the two large ponds inside the pen. This human-made ridge (or "oyster bar") is a safe place in the water. Do you see the plastic crane standing stiffly at the end of the bar? It is a role model. After the young cranes take bedtime baths, the costumed handler moves onto the oyster bar and the cranes follow. One by one they claim their night’s roosting space on the oyster-shell bar. This is their first lesson in using in the water as a safety defense. To reach the cranes, any predator would need to splash through the water surrounding the roosting site. Roosting in water is like having liquid alarm system. When it's almost dark, they do the "Harley kick." Each crane jerks one leg as though starting a motorcycle, then tucks the leg up and goes to sleep. The costumed handler quietly leaves them under the starlight.

The five young cranes at St. Marks NWR follow the example of a plastic crane role model to safely roost in water at night.
Image copyright Operation Migration