With the Cranes
Meet Tex (the
Whooping crane in the photo) and her dancing partner, Dr. George
Archibald. Dr. Archibald is also an ornithologist and founder and past
Director of the International
Crane Foundation (ICF). So why is he dancing with a Whooping crane?
This female whooper named Tex was the lone female Whooper at ICF
in 1981, one of only 109 surviving Whooping cranes in the whole world.
a the San Antonio Zoo in Texas in 1967. But Tex had health problems
that necessitated hand rearing. As a result she imprinted on humans.
did not meet another whooper until she was transferred to the U.S.G.S.
Patuxent Center as a subadult. In years of effort to pair her with
Whooping crane, Tex never laid a single egg. She preferred displaying
to her human keepers rather than to her handsome mate, Canus.
This was a big problem. How could Tex help her endangered species increase their
numbers if she didn't want to mate?
1975 Tex came to a new home at ICF in Wisconsin. ICF's Dr. Archibald had
an idea. His hope was that he would try to develop a pair bond with Tex.
To do this, he would perform the spring courtship dancing with her. If
successful, this would induce her to lay eggs that would be fertilized
by artificial insemination. Dr. Archibald moved in with Tex for several
months in 1976 and established a firm pair bond with her. Dr. Archibald
regularly danced with Tex, and Tex thought she was his girlfriend. He
followed Tex's lead in the wing-flapping cha-cha of crane courtship. The
next spring, she laid the first egg of her life, at age 10. But the egg
was infertile. They tried again the next spring and produced a fertile
egg, but the chick died just before hatching. In 1979 Tex's egg was soft-shelled
and broke. Finally, on May 3, 1981, Tex laid a fertile egg!
Whiz! It Worked
Tex's egg was removed from her nest and replaced with a fake Sandhill
egg. Her real egg was tended with extreme care by experts, and Tex's
"Gee Whiz" hatched on June
1. His name is a tribute to Dr.
George Gee at Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center for his work in captive breeding of Whooping
cranes. Gee Whiz carried the hope of continuting Tex's genetic line,
her parents were dead and she had no siblings. As of this writing (Fall
2000), Gee Whiz is alive and feisty at the ripe age of 18. His mother,
Tex, was mourned after being killed by a raccoon in June of 1982, just
three weeks after Gee Whiz hatched. Gee Whiz is the father and grandfather
many captive cranes. Some of his offspring are now living in the wild
in Florida as part of the nonmigratory
Florida flock of whoopers. Another became a member (#419) of
the tiny reintroduced Eastern flock in the hatch
year 2004 cohort!
More About the Crane Dances
pair of whoopers generally mate for life IF they are successful at mating
raising chicks. Cranes are a lot like people in this way: they'll stay
together as long as things are going well. When
a whooping crane
mate or bond with another whooper, its crown becomes bright red. The
crane struts around in a high-stepping march and shows off its beautiful
The crane tries to "invite" another bird with its body language.
Ruffling its feathers, growling, stomping its feet, and tossing its
in various displays is the "come on." If another crane is interested,
it will mimic the first crane's movements. Then the two will dance side
by side. Eventually the two cranes will create a duet with a sequence
of calls that lasts between 15 and 40 seconds. This duet is called a
call. Its purpose is to release tensions and help the two birds bond.
When whooping cranes prepare to mate, they leap, bow, run around, and
throw sticks in the air. Cranes are famous for their dancing.
The dancing actually affects a crane's biological rhythms. The dancing
stimulates the crane's hormones in preparation for mating. In Tex's case,
dancing with Dr. Archibald prepared her hormones for artificial insemination.
Because Tex wasn't interested in mating with another Whooping crane,
was the only way to get her to lay a fertile egg.
More About Dr. George Archibald
Dancing with Tex was just part of the work Dr. Archibald did to help
the foundation's effort to increase dwindling crane populations. Dr.
is a member of the U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery team and the world's
leading expert on cranes. He is also the founder of the International
Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. ICF is one of a few
places in the U.S. that has a captive breeding program for whooping
Dr. Archibald's work is admired and respected all over the world. He
was awarded the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal for his work, and Prince
of the Netherlands appointed him to the Order of the Golden Arc.
Dr. Archibald stepped down from being Director of ICF November 1, 2000.
Now he raises funds, participates in field research, and writes. In an
article he wrote for National Geographic, Dr. Archibald quoted
naturalist Aldo Leopold, who treasured the joyful noise of cranes in flight.
Aldo Leopold said, "When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We
hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution." We can be grateful
that the work of Dr. Archibald and other dedicated people are helping
this trumpet continue to call.
you like to read
more about Dr. Archibald's work with endangered crane populations
parts of the world? See "The Fading Call of the Siberian Crane"
in National Geographic, May 1994.
more about Gee Whiz and his descendants by visiting the websites of
the International Crane Foundation
and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
(Search "Gee Whiz.")