Patuxent Star Shines in Florida
A celebrity whooping crane from Patuxent has gone on to do great things in Florida. The whooper was first introduced to you back in the Spring of 2000, when we followed his development through chickhood. In fact, our whooping crane webpage was first developed to give everyone an inside look at this bird’s life. Readers even cast votes for the naming of the bird, giving him the name Patuxent, or Tux for short. You can still read the early entries about Tux by going to our Sitemap and selecting Whooping Crane Chick Reports.
Tux hatched on May 1, 2000, and was reared for release by humans wearing crane costumes . He was a healthy chick, growing up with few problems. We shipped Tux to Florida in January 2001 with seven other birds and they were released together a few weeks later. Tux is now one of about 50 birds in the non-migratory flock of whooping cranes in central Florida. This flock is monitored by our partners in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Whooping cranes in the Florida flock generally form pairs and begin to breed when they are about 4-7 years old. Right on schedule, Tux found a mate in the spring of 2005. The female, also known as 915, was reared at Patuxent in 1999. She had nested with a different male in 2004, but failed to hatch a chick. Cranes sometimes choose new mates if they are unsuccessful with their original mates. This may be why the female chose to leave the other male and pair with Tux. Tux and 915 formed a strong bond in 2005 but did not attempt to nest.
In the winter of 2006, Tux and his mate began defending a territory. In spring they started nest-building. Then in late March came the exciting news – Tux and 915 were incubating two eggs! Inexperienced crane pairs sometimes fail in their first nesting attempts, so we kept our fingers crossed for the next 30 days. Much to everyone’s delight, the pair was successful and hatched one chick on April 21st. The second egg did not hatch. The pair still had a long way to go and many difficulties to face in rearing the chick, but Tux proved to be a good dad. He and 915 were able to feed their chick well, protect it from predators and teach it about surviving in Florida. On about July 10th the chick fledged, or made its first flight. In the history of this release project, a total of eight wild-hatched chicks have survived to fledging.
A few weeks ago, the biologists in Florida captured Tux and his family. They put colored leg bands and a radio transmitter on the chick’s legs so that they can identify it in the future. The chick is now known as 1644. The biologists also replaced worn out radios on Tux and 915 and evaluated the health of the entire family. All three were in good condition. Tux weighed 7.3 kilograms (about 16 pounds), which is heavier than most birds in the flock. He is a big, handsome crane! When radios were on and check-ups complete, the family was released to their marsh, feisty as ever.
Tux’s family will probably stay together until late winter, and the chick will gradually become more independent. Eventually 1644 will leave his parents, in time for Tux and his mate to start a new family in the spring.
Tux has come a long way since you met him as a helpless chick in 2000. We hope you are happy and proud as we are of our star crane and his parental achievements. Who knows, if folks work to protect crane habitat in Florida, maybe one day in the future we can report of Tux becoming a grandfather! Stay tuned!
Also, see WCEP Press Release.