The Boss — Or Mommy's Little Boy?
By Eva Szyszkoski
I have been monitoring the older whooping cranes and helping to raise
this year's chicks, I can’t help but have some favorites.
One of the ultralight-led chicks, one in particular has gotten
my attention more than the others. Male #706 is the second oldest bird of the ultralight class of 2007.
He is one of the most aggressive towards a costume, but I also like to
him as "mommy’s little boy." Here's why:
Early in March, I was standing in the pen in order to keep the birds from
flying out before roost because they were all pretty active that night. The
a female adult sandhill crane had roosted in the pen with the chicks, and we
were concerned that she might return and upset them.
From Toe-tapping to Stare Down
As I stood
on the artificially constructed oyster bar, #6 stayed nearby. Eventually
he wandered right next
me. He started poking at the tip of my boot, which was under the water.
After a few seconds of gentle tapping, #706 began to pound on my
boot with brute
force! I gently nudged him away with my puppet head, triggering the
aggression I talked
about earlier. Backing slightly away from me, he raised his head as high
as he could, challenging me to a stand-off.
I obliged by raising my puppet head
and initiating the stare down. What happened next? Read on! >>
took this photo of Sara in a standoff with #706 in the "Chass"
pen. How is Sara using the puppet to show her dominance? How
this is #706?
Down to Jump Rake
As costumed handlers, we do not want to show
that we are intimidated by the chicks, as they would probably gang up on
us and try
to push us to the bottom of the social pack. (I do not
want to be attacked by a bunch of birds with sharp claws and pointy beaks!)
After about 30 seconds of stare down, #706 jumped in the air and brought
feet forward, trying to rake me with his claws. This is called jump
raking, for obvious reasons. I persisted, holding my puppet
head high and began to close the distance between him and me. I was forcing
him backwards, while
my puppet head out in front of me in order to keep his attack as far away
from the rest of my body as possible. Eventually
he backed down, lowered his head
and turned away. I also backed off. I put a few feet of distance between
us and went back to my position on the oyster bar.
Crane #706 stayed away for a minute or so, and then
began again. First he slowly approached me and then eventually
pecked on my submerged
boots until the pecking became pounding. I once again nudged him
away, bringing back his aggression.
Even though his intentions were most likely to scare and intimidate,
he is still one of my favorite ultralight chicks because he likes to
and only gets aggressive when we want him to stop investigating us.
chicks’ migration will start. Once #706 and the others leave
the pen on the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and officially
independent lifestyles, they will not need costumed caretakers any
longer. What will the future bring to Mommy's Little Boy?
About Crane Dominance and Submission
- Who's in Charge? >>
- Me First!
Whooping Crane Pecking Order >>
Order Simulation Game >>
or Submissive? Leader or Follower? >>