and Capture Myopathy
Duff, Operation Migration Team Leader
(September 9, 2002)
that crisis management is not the strong suit of most birds. When faced
with a perceived danger, they become so alarmed they react with either a
"fight or flight" response. When their safety is threatened they
will either take to the air or stand their ground. However, these options
are not available to captured birds and the resulting stress can be harmful.
Known as capture myopathy, the condition can cause paralysis and
can even be fatal. In other words, birds can be frightened to death. The
health and banding teams must consider this seriously when handling birds.
Duff, Operation Migration Team Leader and Pilot
Trying to Minimize Whoopers' Stress
For the banding and health exams that took place in late August, handlers
entered the pen and corralled one bird out the door at a time. Each bird's
eyes were covered with a hood to prevent them from seeing the non-costumed
staff; they were picked up and carried to the examination area. Since the
birds arrived at Necedah, the handlers have cajoled, charmed and coaxed
them to get them to do what we want. To move them back into the pens after
training, we entice them with treats and patiently wait until the move becomes
their own idea. Despite the frustration, we use positive reinforcement and
rarely attempt to herd them.
Sore and Suspicious
grab them for the banding exercise, they consider it an affront that they
are slow to forgive. For several days they are suspicious of our intention
whenever we enter their enclosures; the chicks that once ran to greet
us are now apprehensive.
Although the handlers are very experienced, the restrained birds often
struggle and the resulting sore muscles contribute to their general post-exam/banding
depression. They are also now encumbered with colored leg bands and a
radio-tracking device that makes them walk much like a puppy wearing slippers.
The health check and banding procedure is a necessary but unavoidably
disruptive period for the birds, leaving them wary of us and reluctant
to fly. The field team takes a step back and spends many hours luring
them with smelt to re-win their confidence. Rather than resume their flying
schedule, we go back to taxi-training until they have had a chance to
Recovered and Moving Toward Departure
Before long the soreness abates; the leg bands become familiar and they
begin to relax their guard. As they resume their normal schedule, we begin
to amalgamate the three cohorts into one flock. When their endurance allows,
we lead one group across Rynearson Pond and move them in with the other.
Eventually all three will be housed at one site. After a few days of confrontations
as they establish a new dominance structure, a new hierarchy will evolve
and become the basis of a migrating flock.
Weather, crew readiness, endurance and social compatibility will all dictate
the date we can begin migration. Based on all these factors and consulting
the records from last year, we have estimated a tentative departure date
of October 7th. In the meantime, we go back to coaxing, cajoling and coddling
and keep all our primaries crossed.
Science Education Standards
- The behavior
of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger)
and by external cues (such as a change in the environment).
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).