Back to This Week's Countdown to Migration


Heads up: What's about to change?

Tiny crane chicks have fuzz covering their face and their crown (top of the head). This fuzz helps keep them warm when their bodies are just getting good at controlling temperature. But then it changes. New feathers, short and bristly, grow in on the face and forehead as the chick gets older. Soon those fuzzy feathers on top of the head will be pushed out by shorter feathers, too. The short, bristly feathers don't absorb water, so cranes can submerge their heads while feeding without soaking their head feathers.

By the end of October, some chicks start losing their head feathers. Then their red patch will show through. By spring, a young Whooping crane has a beautiful red patch of bare skin on its crown, ready for adulthood.

Image: Operation Migration