Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

May 1, 2002

Catching On to Feeding

Feeding Lesson
Photo Patuxent WRC


Even in the wild, whooper parents have to teach their chicks to eat and drink. Wild whooper parents catch food for their chicks all day long.

Handlers don't have to catch the food, but they spend many hours patiently teaching the chicks how to eat. The costumed handler dips a crane puppet's bill into a bowl of water, then dips it into a crane-cumbles, a specially formulated, high protein food with everything a growing chick needs. The crumbles stick to the puppet's bill. The chick pecks the food off the bill, and eventually follows the bill to the food or water. It doesn't take long for the chick to realize where the food is, and soon it will wobble over to the dish to serve itself.

See a Chick Learning to Eat in this Video.

The chick in this video is only hours old. The puppet head is teaching the young chick to eat crane-cumbles. The puppet head plays a recording of a "contact call," communicating with the chick like a real crane would.

Try This! Journaling Questions

  • Why do you think the food bowl is red?
  • Why do you think this rule is part of the Protocol for raising whooper chicks? "Absolutely no feeding will be done from hand. All food used as an incentive will be dispensed by methods other than hand tossing. Mealworms or other treats will be pointed out using a puppet to encourage foraging." Write your response in your journals, then read read what we think (rule 5).

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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