THE WHOOPING CRANE REPORT: 25
Anita Vincent, from
the San Antonio Zoo, with the portable incubator that kept two whooping
crane eggs safe and warm. The white device on the lid is a digital
temperature readout so that Anita could make sure the incubator stayed
within the proper temperature range during the trip.
The eggs are nestled in
foam rubber with shapes cut out to accommodate them. The digital probe
rests between them. More foam rubber cushioned them against the top of the
box and beneath them were warm packs and hot water bottles that Anita used
to regulate their temperature. On the table beside the incubator is an
The oldest of the two
San Antonio eggs hatched only two days after arriving. After chipping away at the star
pip, the chick methodically cut
The first San Antonio
chick is shown here just after hatching, his down still very wet. He rests
in an Intensive Care Unit after the
strenuous job of hatching. A soft whooping crane puppet is in the ICU
with him, so that the first thing he sees is the image of a whooping
crane. The staff will use the puppet to feed him.
Two weeks later, the San
Antonio chick is already used to following costumed technicians out to the
training ring. The ultralight aircraft, without its wings, is next to the ring.
The ring keeps the chicks secure while they're learning to follow the plane. The
crane head with the extra-long neck that Mark is handling enables him to drive
the plane around the ring, while keeping "parental" contact with the
chick. Mark can manipulate the puppet while sitting in the plane and even use it
to feed the chicks. The head of the puppet has a trap door that can drop
mealworms for the chick as a positive reinforcement.
Egg Transfer -- from the San Antonio Zoo to Patuxent
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) includes federal and state government agencies as well as private organizations, all joined together to make the ultralight migration project successful. The San Antonio Zoo in Texas has successfully reared chicks that have been sent to the Florida non-migratory project. This year, as partners in the WCEP project, San Antonio sent two eggs to Patuxent to be raised here. Since all the chicks involved in the migration must be socialized together and trained with the ultralight in the same way, all the chicks have to be raised in the same facility. The non-migratory birds don't require that level of specialized training, and can be raised in separate facilities.
On April 19th, Anita Vincent, from the San Antonio Zoo, arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport with a very special Easter basket. It was a portable incubator she had hand-carried from San Antonio that kept the whooper eggs cushioned from shocks and also kept them at the proper temperatures. The eggs were close to the end of their term.
Anita carried the eggs with her the whole time, holding the incubator so that it wouldn't get shaken on the trip. At airport security, she had to completely disassemble the strange looking wooden box that had a digital read-out device riding on top. The living eggs can't be x-rayed, but Anita was able to demonstrate the purpose of the box and also had all the appropriate permits allowing her to transport the rare whooper eggs to Maryland.
The oldest of the two eggs was already peeping when Anita arrived at Patuxent -- a comforting sign for her, letting her know the eggs had traveled safely in her care. The chick hatched just two days later, and was the very first whooper chick to hatch this season. He's over two weeks old now, and is doing great. He's already learning to follow the ultralight. The second San Antonio egg hatched Tuesday, May 6th, and is also doing really well.
Those of us who work with the whooper chicks consider every one of them a valuable individual. But when eggs are sent to us by our partners, we appreciate the care and concern that went into producing them, so we feel a special responsibility to do our very best for these two San Antonio chicks. If all goes well, they'll be winging their way across America this fall along with the rest of the cohort we're raising.
All 11 of the whooper chicks we're raising right now are strong and healthy . They're keeping us busy, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
Lucky's parents are raising another whooper chick. They've nested in a different area, since the place where they raised Lucky has turned back into the lake it originally was. It was only because of drought conditions that the lake had been suitable habitat last year. The chick they have this year is about 2 months old already and doing well.
There is another whooper pair raising a chick. This chick hatched on 3/31 and is also doing well.
There are at least 2 other pairs of whoopers still sitting on eggs. The rains have created good conditions, so there's a lot of hope that these new nests might also produce chicks.
Lucky continues to do fine on his own in Florida. He's an independent young bird now, and is hanging around with some of the recently released whoopers.
You can catch up with recent flock updates at the Whooping Crane Conservation Association's website:
There are 21 birds in the new migratory flock, 5 from 2001, and 16 from 2002. Of this group, 19 have successfully migrated from Florida to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge area. There are two stragglers who seem to be taking a more scenic route. For recent updates check out our partners' websites:
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership website:
Operation Migration's website:
and the International Crane Foundations' website:
Please check our site on June 12th for a web page update.
See our Crane Videos!
May 6, 2003: We currently have 11 lively whooper chicks ranging in ages from just hatched (0 days old) to the oldest at 15 days old. Four of the chicks hatched between Monday night (5/5) and Tuesday morning. The second egg from the San Antonio Zoo was one of those. All 11 birds are being trained for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) migration project. The four oldest birds have already been introduced to the ultralight plane as part of their "ground school" training. The weather has been a challenge as some unseasonably cool, rainy days have impacted the chicks' exercise and training regimens.
The six Florida sandhill cranes are also thriving, and enjoying daily exercise walks with the technicians and are also being swum for exercise. Visits to the nearby "Farm Pond" will expose them to wading opportunities.
Current whooping crane egg production is at 43 eggs from 10 producing females. Eight eggs are known to be fertile (in addition to the 11 that have already hatched).
Check out the Whooping Crane Conservation Association's revamped website! It has current flock information and other interesting news items:
Other whooper links can be found on our links page.
Click here to ask questions about Patuxent's whooping crane program. Please check our site on June 12th for a web page update!Whooping Crane Reports
Hatch Day (Click on numbered links to view all other egg (negative numbers) and chick days).