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THE WHOOPING CRANE REPORT: 36

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We have 8 web pages of General Information, 24 different Whooping Crane Chick Reports, and 36 Whooper Reports. There's lots of information, photos, and videos packed on these web pages, so check out our site map and find out what you've been missing.

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See How the WCEP Chicks Have Grown

The oldest, WCEP chick #01 is 19 days of age.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
The oldest, WCEP chick #01 is 19 days of age.

WCEP chick #02 is 18 days.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS    WCEP chick #03 is 18 days.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS    WCEP chick #05 at 15 days. Chick #05 has had his middle toes taped to straighten them. Crooked toes can be a problem, but can be corrected.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
From the left, WCEP chicks #02 and #03, are both 18 days, and chick #05 at 15 days. Chick #05 has had his middle toes taped to straighten them. Crooked toes can be a problem, but can be corrected.

WCEP chick #06 at day 5 stands next to his white stuffed brood model.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS    WCEP chick #07 at day 4, is getting ready to eat.    Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
WCEP chick #06 at day 5 stands next to his white stuffed brood model while chick #07 at day 4, is getting ready to eat. 

WCEP chick #08 at day 3.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS   WCEP chick #09 at day 2.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS   WCEP chick #10 at day 2.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
WCEP chick #08 at day 3, and chicks #09 and #10 at day 2.

One of our two newest chicks, WCEP chick #11 at 18 hours of age in the ICU with a crane puppet head for company.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS    Our newest chick, WCEP chick #12 is still drying off in the hatcher. He's just a few hours old in this picture.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
The two newest chicks, WCEP chick #11 at 18 hours of age in the ICU with a crane puppet head for company, and chick #12 is still drying off in the hatcher. He's just a few hours old in this picture.

Photos, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS

Current Number of Chicks: 11!

The chicks sure have been busy hatching since last week, and they're keeping the staff really busy. Crane chicks grow at an astounding rate, developing most of their full height in just 8 weeks. Cranes live a long time, so problems that arise in the growing chick can have lasting effects. Also, for chicks to survive in the wild, experience shows us they need to be strong and healthy.

Crane chicks get lots of exercise with their parents in the wild, both walking and swimming. We walk the chicks, in groups if we can, and exercise them behind Operation Migration's trike during their training (see Report 35). We also swim chicks who are very young, or who need additional exercise or may be showing a tendency towards leg problems, or when it's too hot for extended walking. 

Because crane chicks, especially whoopers, grow so rapidly, and because conditions in captivity aren't the same as in the wild, we sometimes have problems with chicks developing crooked toes. We suspect that it's because of differences in substrate (chicks in the wild are on various natural substrates, while our chicks are on sod, carpet over concrete, or bedding over concrete) combined with less exercise than in the wild, and differences in nutrition. It's a complex problem we haven't been able to eliminate despite many attempts. However, we have learned how to correct it. You will note that WCEP chick #05 and #06 have their toes taped. We've learned that to correct this problem, we must tape small splints to the crooked toes and leave the tape on for 2 days. We use a tape that isn't too sticky, that doesn't irritate their skin, and comes off easily, along with veterinary applicator sticks. 

The chicks grow so fast that the tape has to come off by the second day, simply because the foot is getting larger. But usually, two days is all it takes to resolve the problem. When the tape comes off, the toe is straight. It might stay that way, and it might become crooked again later. If it deviates again, we simply continue to tape it until the problem is corrected. We've learned, however, if we don't correct crooked toes, they get worse, and can result in deformed feet that can hamper the bird's ability to get around, and can become arthritic at an early age. Certainly not a condition we'd want to have on a chick that will be released into the wild. We discussed crooked toes in a report about one our breeding pairs, 02-74001 and 02-77001. We'll show more about toe taping in a future report.

A more significant problem than crooked toes are crooked legs. Early research in crane nutrition showed that too much protein in the diet, or too rapid a growth rate, combined with reduced exercise, can cause crane chicks' legs to develop a variety of deviations. That's why exercise is so critical for these young, rapidly growing chicks. Sometimes, if the chicks gain weight too quickly, their legs will develop problems. We monitor their weight daily and if, after day 10, they gain weight too rapidly, we restrict their access to food and increase their exercise. We also keep a close watch on the way their legs are developing and at the first sign of problems, initiate more aggressive exercise. Chick #01 seems to grow "feet first" -- his feet get very large and then the rest of his body catches up. But while his feet are oversized, he's like a kid wearing his dad's shoes and clumps around awkwardly, which throws his gait off; he even trips on his own toes. As a precaution, we're swimming him three times a day in addition to his exercise with the trike. Chick #02 seemed to have a slight deviation in his gait as well, so he, too, is in the pool 3 times a day. The extra exercise is paying off as both birds are looking great. Deviations can occur very rapidly in an animal that grows so fast, and if they aren't arrested, the chick can become permanently crippled. This is one of the many things that makes each day in the life of these young chicks so very critical to their future as wild birds.


The crane chicks enjoy their rubber footbaths, especially when the temperature starts to climb.    Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
The crane chicks enjoy their rubber footbaths, especially when the temperature starts to climb. 

The chicks will often submerge their whole bodies in the rubber footbath.    Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
The chicks will often submerge their whole bodies in the rubber footbath. 

They'll dunk their heads under the water and then pull the water up over their backs.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
They'll dunk their heads under the water and then pull the water up over their backs.

Photos, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS

Bath Time!

WCEP chick #02 discovers the fun of bathing on a warm day. 

By rubbing their face on their wet down, they can clean the parts of their face they can't normally preen.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
By rubbing their face on their wet down, they can clean the parts of their face they can't normally preen.

While submerged, they'll flap their wings to help get the water everywhere.    Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
While submerged, they'll flap their wings to help get the water everywhere. 

Once they're good and wet, they'll preen every bit of down to get it just the way they want it. But bathing isn't just for feather upkeep. It helps the chicks cool off on a hot day.   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
Once they're good and wet, they'll preen every bit of down to get it just the way they want it. But bathing isn't just for feather upkeep. It helps the chicks cool off on a hot day.

This Year's Migration Success!

You can read regular updates and see pictures of the WCEP migratory flock as they leave Florida to return to Wisconsin at the International Crane Foundations' migration website:  http://www.savingcranes.org/about/whats_new/. Several of the birds from 2003 have already arrived at Necedah.

Their migration photo journal can be seen at: http://www.savingcranes.org/about/whats_new/.  

More updates and information on the WCEP project can be found at:
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
website and at the Journey North Whooping Crane website. 

Regular updates and pictures of the ultralight migrations can be found on Operation Migration's website in their Field Journal.

Information about the WCEP whoopers' winter and summer homes can be found  at the Chassahowitzka NWR site and the Necedah NWR site.

Florida Update!

The non-migratory whoopers in Florida are nesting. Information about last year's production can be found on the Whooping Crane Conservation Association's website under Flock Status

See our Crane Videos!

Click here to ask questions about Patuxent's whooping crane program.   And don't forget to check out our new SITE MAP to learn more about our previously published whooper reports. Please check our site on May 20th for a web page update!  

Whooping Crane Reports

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Hatch Day (Click on numbered links to view all other egg (negative numbers) and chick days).

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Other Patuxent Crane Information

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA
URL http://whoopers.usgs.gov
Contact: Jonathan Male
Last modified: 05/12/2004
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