Back to this week's Update 

Cut Him Some Slack
There's a good reason why a Whooping crane's head and neck feathers don’t get white until the bird is about 400 days—more than a year—old. It is important for these birds to still look young when they return from their first spring migration. That's the time when the adult birds are establishing their territories. They drive all other cranes away. Pairs need a big territory to make sure of enough food for their chicks, who can’t fly to another territory for food like the adults can. The head and neck color is a helpful clue. Mates can afford to be gentler towards an intruder that’s just a baby from last year, and not an adult who is horning in on their territory. By 450 days of age, the body plumage and flight feathers look like an adult's. When will a chick born the end of May have its full adult colors?

Crane familyi with one juvenile

Image: Laura Erickson