Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eggs and Chicks!

It has been a super busy week. Sorry about the delay, but we've had a lot of fun getting everything ready for the very first babies.

Sometimes, we take the eggs from parents who are negligent nest-sitters. Sometimes, the parents break the eggs. We try to take those eggs immediately after they lay to save as many baby whooping cranes as we can. The parents who don't "sit tight" on their nests or the ones who break the eggs are usually new parents or a new breeding pair. They haven't had enough experience, or haven't developed the instinct. We usually give these newer parents dummy eggs to sit on so they can practice "proper nesting behaviors" until they can be trusted with their own eggs.

For parents who are good at sitting, we leave them on real eggs and let them raise their chick. This is the best practice for the adults and the young. This way the young learn proper crane behaviors.

For those eggs that were taken to incubators, we carefully monitor them until they hatch. These are 4 whooping crane eggs, you can see there is a lot of color variation between the eggs. The color just depends on the physiology of the female.

When the egg gets closer to hatch, we take it out of the incubator (which rolls the eggs as the mothers would), and place it into a hatcher (where the egg remains stationary). We play brood calls to the egg several times a day to encourage the chick to start hatching. In this video you can see the egg responding to the brood calls.

If I had a better camera, you'd be able to hear the chick peeping from inside the egg while it rocks!

When the chick is peeping and becoming more aware of outside surroundings, we make sure not to speak. We don't want it to recognize human voices. When it hatches, we disguise our form with a costume so it doesn't imprint on humans. We want these little guys to be cranes.

After it hatches, we take it up to the ISO compound where we can raise it. We let them see each other so they know other cranes, we also give them role models (adult cranes) to watch and learn from. Additionally, we behave as a crane in our crane costume to ensure the little chicks are eating and drinking properly.

Yes, we're naming them, but the cranes will never know those names (because we don't talk to them). This year's theme is CHEESE!! so first chick is Nacho, second chick is Pepper Jack, and the list will continue.

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