Story of Crane #9 [Hatch
Contributed by Jennifer Rabuck, Ranger at Necedah National Wildlife Center
Early Wing Injury
Before the new chicks left Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in
Maryland, two of the cranes suffered wing injuries. Female Crane
#9 and male Crane #4 were both treated for the minor wing problems.
When the flock arrived at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin,
WCEP team members were hopeful about the birds' chance to "make the
team." In captivity, recovery is difficult for cranes with this
type of injury. They usually can't exercise and develop muscles
that help control their wings. Being included in this
study actually increases their chances of recovery; they are able
to exercise and strengthen their wings by flying almost daily and
using those muscles.
Flight School Goes Well, Until. . .
It appeared that things were working out for the two birds ith wing
problems. Both seemed to heal and hold their wings more naturally
against their bodies. Both took flight. As training
time in the air grew gradually longer to build endurance, the
future looked bright for them. Then #9 began to drop out of the
daily training behind the ultralight. She
returned to the marsh below as her flockmates continued flying.
This new behavior occurred more and more consistantly, but always
after about the same amount of flight
Verdict on 9/11
On September 11, 2001 (a fateful day in many ways that none of us
will forget), WCEP veterinarians did a pre-migration health
check on the chicks that would migrate with the ultralight plane.
They put identification bands and radio telemetry
transmitters on each crane. During the exam, they discovered that
Crane #9 had major problems with her flight feathers. The feathers
were obviously deformed. They showed many fault bars and
stress lines, which are weaknesses in the feathers.
To make matters worse, #9 was very submissive. When the
other birds showed dominance, she cowered and eventually ended up
secluded from the flock. This could
have been a side effect due to the timing of her injury, as it
occurred during important periods of socialization and flock development.
Crane #9, however, will not depart
on the migration with the other cranes. It is estimated that it
could take a few years for new, healthy feathers to replace those
slowly molted, allowing her to become
fully functional in the air. That makes
her an unsuccessful candidate for reintroduction since the crane's
first migratory flight is the one
they mimic thereafter. So Crane #9 will go to the Audubon Zoo in
The End of Training and Start of Taming
Jennifer with Crane #9
had never seen a human not covered by a costume. She had never
heard a human voice.
This crane had been kept as wild as possible. Now she must be
prepared to handle the opposite situation. As a display
bird at the
zoo, she will be very close to people and non-natural things.
Crane #9 Sees a Human Face
was asked to assist with her taming process. I went with Dan
Sprague, a USGS Biologist responsible for hatching and rearing
Dan was in costume to provide a
familiar "face" and to be able to approach her if needed without
adding stress. It felt strange
for me to be on the rearing site again. I worked for many days
preparing the site for the cranes' arrival, but I had not been
back there for several months. Knowing a rare
whooping crane was just on the other side of the fence,
I felt out of place. I was breaking the protocol that is so vital
to this project — but now, that was exactly what I was supposed
opened the pen and walked in. After removing his hood and getting
no real reaction from #9, he told me to
come into the pen. When I cleared the fencing, I saw the beautiful
crane in her marsh environment. Dan
told me she then showed the most dominance he had ever seen
from her. She held her head up very high and showed displaced
by pulling at weeds in the water. She
kept her distance while watching me intently. I was in the
than 10 minutes, but by the time I left, she was almost ignoring
me. It was that quick and simple
to undo so much that the biologists had worked for! It was
that easy to undo all that the protocol had safe-guarded.
It was such an honor to be present, even though I knew that
she could never go back to being a wild, release-able bird
after our encounter.
Try This! Journaling Questions
- While her
flockmates from the core population of the new Eastern flock, how
will Crane #9 still play a role in the reintroduction of whooping
cranes to Wisconsin and the eastern U.S.?
Crane 9 in her new home at the Audubon Zoo. Her
life took a different path from how it started. In your life,
a big plan gone astray, perhaps disappointing you? Now that you
look back, can you list both "good" and bad" about the
way things turned out for you?
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure
made possible by the Whooping
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).