USGS USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


USGS Patuxent Crane Breeding Season -- 2006

So far, the 2006 breeding season has been a wonderful success -- again, thanks to a little help from our friends. Because of the snowstorm in February and repair work, breeding season was delayed. Our first egg was laid on May 10, and a collective sigh of relief was heard all over the country. Since production was late and because we anticipated it to be less than in previous years, there was concern that we would not be able to produce the number of chicks for the WCEP ultralight project that we had hoped to produce. After consulting with our numerous partners, the team decided that other whooping crane breeding facilities could supplement our production to enable us to achieve the best number of chicks for the project. We have received whooper eggs from the International Crane Foundation, the Calgary Zoo, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES), but the big surprise this year was receiving eggs from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. These eggs were laid on the refuge by a pair of WCEP whoopers who abandoned their nest. Concerned when the pair failed to return to incubate and fearing the eggs would soon be destroyed by predators, biologists on the refuge rescued the eggs, and sent them to ICF for incubating. When it came time for the eggs to hatch, they were sent to Patuxent in the hopes the chicks could be trained to follow the ultralight and become part of the release program. Both eggs have hatched, and the chicks are doing well. We currently have 22 WCEP ultralight chicks and 1 additional chick from a new pair that we're holding back for genetic reasons.

Here are some new baby pictures to add to our collection:

The first WCEP chick of the year, this youngster came from the International Crane Foundation. He's 3 days old. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

The first WCEP chick of the year, this youngster came from the International Crane Foundation. He's 3 days old. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is the same chick, cuddling up to his stuffed brood model; a crane puppet head is suspended over his food bowl to help him learn to eat on his own. The food bowl and the rim of the water jug are both red. Crane chicks are attracted to red, so having these items in this color encourages the chick to investigate on his own. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is the same chick, cuddling up to his stuffed brood model; a crane puppet head is suspended over his food bowl to help him learn to eat on his own. The food bowl and the rim of the water jug are both red. Crane chicks are attracted to red, so having these items in this color encourages the chick to investigate on his own. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 02, one of the chicks from Necedah, at 1 day of age. He has a crooked toe, but the tape on it will straighten it out. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 02, one of the chicks from Necedah, at 1 day of age. He has a crooked toe, but the tape on it will straighten it out. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is the same chick, standing up and wandering around his pen. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is the same chick, standing up and wandering around his pen. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 03, the second chick from Necedah. He, also, is a day old, and like his sibling, has a crooked toe. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 03, the second chick from Necedah. He, also, is a day old, and like his sibling, has a crooked toe. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 03, one of the Necedah chicks, at 1 day of age, watching the live whooping crane imprinting model next door to him. The chicks spend hours watching and interacting with the live whooper that helps them imprint properly. In the distance you can faintly see whooping crane decoys that are suspended in the pen that, we hope, will also help with imprinting. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This is WCEP 03, one of the Necedah chicks, at 1 day of age, watching the live whooping crane imprinting model next door to him. The chicks spend hours watching and interacting with the live whooper that helps them imprint properly. In the distance you can faintly see whooping crane decoys that are suspended in the pen that, we hope, will also help with imprinting. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

This little guy, WCEP 04, is from the Calgary Zoo. He's only 6 hours old, so young, his down hasn't even dried yet. His legs are still swollen and puffy from being in the egg. That edema will gradually, over the next 2 days, be absorbed by his body. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley

This little guy, WCEP 04, is from the Calgary Zoo. He's only 6 hours old, so young, his down hasn't even dried yet. His legs are still swollen and puffy from being in the egg. That edema will gradually, over the next 2 days, be absorbed by his body. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

WCEP 04, from Calgary, is introduced to his first imprinting model, a soft-sided puppet head that he can cuddle up with while staying warm in the ICU. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

WCEP 04, from Calgary, is introduced to his first imprinting model, a soft-sided puppet head that he can cuddle up with while staying warm in the ICU. Photo by USGS, Kathleen O'Malley.

WCEP 20, also from Calgary, is about a day old in this picture. Here, USGS volunteer Susan Kryszak uses the puppet head to encourage the chick to drink from the small water jug. This is similar to the way cranes teach their young to drink, by dabbling at the water and making it move. Immediately after we took this picture, the chick took a big drink. Photo by USGS volunteer, Susan Kryszak.

WCEP 20, also from Calgary, is about a day old in this picture. Here, USGS volunteer Susan Kryszak uses the puppet head to encourage the chick to drink from the small water jug. This is similar to the way cranes teach their young to drink, by dabbling at the water and making it move. Immediately after we took this picture, the chick took a big drink. Photo by USGS volunteer, Susan Kryszak.