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Colors Are Signals
Here is one of the two Direct Autumn Release colts from the Class of 2011 that are wintering with Sandhill cranes and other whoopers at Tennessee's Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. You can tell it's a juvenile from still-rusty-tan feathers mixed with the pure white ones. Having some "childhood" coloration protects the colts. Adult cranes are very territorial, but they cut some slack for the youngest birds, and won't be vicious if they wander into their territory when they complete spring migration.

  • From the colored legbands, is this young Whooping crane #17-11 (DAR) or #20-11 (DAR)? See the banding codes on their biography pages or the Quick-View Chart to decode the answer.
  • A young crane's forehead and crown have matured to the red crown with black bristles by the time the crane is 350 days old. After you discover the identiy of this young crane from the leg band colors, figure out when the bird's head will have its red crown. (See birthdate on the crane's biography page.)

Courtesy of Bret Douglas

Crane 11-17 (DAR) at Hiwassee