Crane Adaptations: The Head
for labeled photo
A crane looks
at, listens to, smells, and tastes the world through its head.
- Its eyes
are designed for clear vision in daylight, from early morning light
to high noon and then on into the evening, but the pupil isn't big enough
for night vision. Its skull is designed to slightly shade the eyes from
overhead sun, and to allow the crane to see in front, to the side, partly
above, and partly below.
- A baby
crane's head is covered with feathers. As the bird reaches maturity,
the feathers on its crown fall out to reveal thick, bumpy red skin.
Adults keep that bald crown for life. The color intensifies when
the bird is mating or territorial. The crown enlarges or shrinks depending
on whether the crane needs to draw attention to itself or is hiding.
have excellent hearing, even though we can't see their ears.
The ears are protected by a layer of feathers.
sense of smell may be no better than ours, but cranes have a perforated
nostril like vultures and some other birds with good senses of smell.
Cranes don't have feathers protecting their nostrils the way woodpeckers
cranes eat a lot of blue crabs, but it's hard to be sure how well developed
their sense of taste is. They have few tastebuds, and their tongue
is pointed and shorter than their beak so they can't bite it. The beak
is pointed in front, but the mouth is wide enough at the gape (the "corners"
of the mouth, where the upper and lower beak meet) to handle a big blue
crab. The beak isn't thick and strong enough to allow cranes to strike
at fish as herons do, but does allow them to pick at a wide variety
of food items from root tubers of plants to blue crabs, snakes, and