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Whooping Crane Photo Gallery

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Whooping Crane Propagation Area This photo of the whooping crane captive propagation center at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center was taken in the early 80's. There are more crane pens now, but not much else has changed. The Center's natural landscape provides a good environment for the whoopers who call it home. (USFWS photo)
Whooping Crane Pair This pair of whooping cranes, Laz and Alta, were both hatched and raised at Patuxent. Laz, the female in the background, came from an egg produced here, while Alta, the male in the foreground, was brought, as an egg, from the wild flock from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. They've been parents many times. (USGS photo)
Dancing Whoopers Watching whooping cranes dance is a special thrill. As they jump into the air and flap their wings, the freedom and joy in their movements feels contagious. They dance for the same reasons we dance: to court a mate, to celebrate the spring, or sometimes just because it's fun. (USFWS photo)
Whooping Crane Nest in Wild Most of the whooping cranes from Patuxent originated from eggs collected from the wild flock. This aerial photo shows a whooper in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada, defending its nest from the helicopter hovering over it. Whoopers lay two eggs, but usually only one chick survives. By collecting the second egg, researchers were able to establish the breeding flock at Patuxent while still allowing the wild pair to raise a chick. This helped preserve the valuable genetics of the wild flock without affecting their population. While researchers collected eggs for Patuxent, the number of birds in the wild flock continued to increase. (USFWS photo)
Whooping Crane Nest with 2 Eggs This is a wild whooping crane nest with two eggs in it. The nest sits in water to help protect it from predators, and is built of mud, reeds, and other vegetation so that it's dry. The blotchy coloring of the eggs helps camouflage them in the nest. (USGS photo)
Whooping Cranes Incubating Whooping crane eggs do better when they have natural incubation during their early development. Here a pair of whooping cranes incubates an egg in a pen at Patuxent. Both birds share incubation, both in the wild and in captivity. In this picture, the female incubates the eggs, while the male stands ready to take over when he is needed. (USFWS photo)
Sandhill Crane Incubating WC Eggs Because the whoopers at Patuxent lay more than two eggs a year, we need more cranes to incubate some of the extra eggs. This sandhill crane at Patuxent helps by incubating a whooping crane egg during its critical period. Sandhill cranes at Patuxent are also used to help ensure the safety of procedures that may eventually be used on whooping cranes. They are called "surrogates", or act as substitutes for whoopers. (USFWS photo)
Crane Eggs in Incubator Whooper eggs can safely be incubated mechanically in the later stages. Eggs in incubators like this one can be watched more easily. Most of these eggs are raised by technicians. Eggs that are scheduled to be raised by whooping crane pairs (parent-reared) are left under whoopers to hatch. (Photo by Carlyn Williamson, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Whooper Eggs on Tray This tray of whooper eggs has just come out of the incubator. The eggs will be examined, candled, and weighed to see how their development is progressing. Eggs lose weight during incubation as the chicks grow and use up yolk and fluid. But if an egg loses too much weight too quickly, it can be helped by special treatments or placed in a separate incubator that has a higher humidity level. (Photo by Nelson Beyer, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Costumed Technician From the moment that a whooper chick can see outside of its egg, it will be handled only by a person wearing a crane costume to prevent the chick from imprinting on humans. Carlyn is wearing a poncho-like body costume and a hood which covers her face. The camouflage netting on the hood allows her to see, but disguises her face from the chick. The puppet head she's holding will be the "parent" to the chick. Once we're in these costumes, we have trouble telling each other apart! (Photo by Carlyn Williamson, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Costumed Technician Checks Eggs in Hatcher Wearing a crane costume, Kathy checks on the progress of hatching whooper eggs. These eggs have been removed from the mechanical incubator and are in the hatcher. The temperature and the humidity of the hatcher are slightly different from the incubator, to give the chick more moisture during hatching, and to prevent the chick from hatching too quickly. (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center photo)
Costumed Technician Examines Chick Jane examines this just-hatched whooper chick. He is still wet, fresh out of the egg. She will make sure his umbilicus is closed, that his yolk sac is completely absorbed, and she will spray his umbilicus with an iodine spray to prevent bacterial contamination. She'll weigh him, put a leg band on him to identify him, then put him back in the hatcher to dry off. All he wants to do is sleep after all the hard work of hatching. (Photo by David H. Ellis, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
6 Day Old WC Chick This 5 day old whooper has a coat of fluffy cinnamon-colored down, bright blue eyes, and a good appetite. He can already catch crickets (though sometimes they get away!), and he's learned to eat crumbles from a bowl. His "mother" and "father" are a stuffed model and a puppet head in his pen, but he has a live whooper adult as a neighbor next door. Watching that adult will help him learn how to be a whooper himself. Everything the chick is exposed to--the stuffed model, the puppet, and the live adult--helps in proper imprinting. (Photo by Damien Ossi, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Out For a Walk

Dan has taken these 8 day old whoopers out for a walk. (A second chick can be seen in larger photo.) They've been following him in the grass, good exercise for growing legs and feet. After the walk, he rewards the chicks by offering them mealworms in a bowl. Mealworms are crane "candy," good for a treat, but not a balanced diet. Dan doesn't talk to the chicks, but purrs to them like their parents would, and uses the puppet head to show them the mealworms and encourage them to eat.  (Photo by Damien Ossi, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

Young WC and Pond Brenda shows a two week old whooper the wonders of the natural world when she brings him to a small pond. Using the puppet, she'll show him how to probe in the wet ground as he discovers how much fun a puddle can be. Frogs, earthworms, and flying insects are all there to tempt the young whooper and help him learn to hunt and forage.  (Photo by Barbara Niccolai, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Chick at Night A four-day-old whooper chick gets sleepy at night. The red glow is from the overhead heat lamp that provides heat near the stuffed model of a brooding whooper so that the chick will associate warmth with an adult crane. The brooding model is made from the body of a swan and the plastic modeled head of crane. The stuffed model's beak sits in the rim of a water jug so that the chick will peck at the beak and learn to drink. The chick cuddles near the security and warmth of the model and in a few seconds will lay down and sleep soundly, warm and safe.  (Photo by Damien Ossi, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
25 Day Old WC Chick This whooper chick is around 25 days old. It's amazing how rapidly they grow from that small 6-day-old chick shown earlier.  Regular exercise and a good diet have ensured this chick's rapid growth and good health.  (Photo by Barbara Niccolai, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
45 Day Old WC Chick In another 20 days the change is even more dramatic. This chick is around 45 days old. He's beginning to grow real feathers, including primary feathers, but the chick down is still there at the tips of the new feathers making him very fluffy. He'll preen the down away as his new feathers grow until he's sleek all over.  (Photo by Barbara Niccolai, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
65 Day Old WC At 65 days of age, the chick is almost fully grown. He's starting to fly, and all his down is gone. His feathers are a combination of cinnamon and white, except for the black wing tips he already has. The color combination helps to camouflage him in the wild. His eyes have changed from blue to gold, though there is still a hint of green in them. As he gets older, the cinnamon feathers will shed, one-by-one, and be replaced with white ones until, after a year, he'll be completely white.  (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)
Adult WC in Wild After a year, the chick will be completely white with black wing-tips like this wild whooper. His eyes are gold, and the red crown on the top of his head is covered with spare black feathers. The whooping crane is North America's tallest bird, and is an international symbol of conservation. (USGS photo)

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA
Contact: Jonathan Male
Last Modification: July 31, 2002
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