do cranes use their red crowns?
A crane's red crown is like a "mood meter." The shade
of red sends a message to other cranes. When a crane notices an intruder
on its territory and wants to appear strong and threatening, its crown
fills with more blood. This makes it more brilliant red and a bit swollen.
The bumps of swollen crown skin may even look like tiny feathers sticking
up. A blazing red crown tells cranes intruding on a whooper's territory
to get away fast or prepare to fight!
During migration, cranes often get along with each other and sometimes
even move about with other families. They don't claim territories where
they're all sharing food. When less blood fills their crown, they can
focus on eating without wasting time or energy squabbling, because none
of them feel threatened.
We humans sometimes show our own mood by the amount of blood rushing
to our faces. We can be "purple with anger," but we also may
blush or "turn red" when we're feeling romantic toward another
person. Like our faces, cranes' crowns turn red when they're feeling
romantic, too! When crane pairs dance together, their crowns both turn
If you were a crane, how could you tell if another crane's crown was
red (1) from territorial anger or (2) from feeling romantic toward you?
(That's easy! If that other crane didn't have a mate
and was the opposite sex
from you, it would very likely be trying to attract your attention.
Soon it might even ask you to dance! But if that crane was near its
mate while raising its head in a threatening way to look right at you,
it would be a good idea to back away or get ready for a battle!)
Ornithologist and Journey North Crane Expert
Photo Eva Szyszkoski,
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by