Crane Adaptations: The Body

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Most bird bodies don't tell much about the bird's life until you look carefully at the wings, tail, and legs.

  • Long, broad wings like a crane's take too much energy to flap long distances. Like all birds, cranes must minimize the energy they need for flight over long distances. Birds with long, broad wings usually are long distance migrants, or they hunt by soaring for long periods each day (like vultures and some hawks). The pigment that makes a whooping crane's wing feather tips black also makes those feathers stronger, which is important on their long-distance flights.

  • A whooping crane's body is mostly covered with skin and feathers. Important things are happening underneath!

  • The heart and lungs are so efficient that cranes can get enough oxygen to fly even at high altitudes.

  • Cranes have a very short tail. Tails are useful for quick aerial maneuvers, but cranes fly slowly and directly, or spiral upwards on thermals in wide circles. That means a long tail wouldn't be useful for them, and might actually drag in water, making it difficult to take off fast if a predator suddenly appeared.