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Whooping Crane nest with egg
Whooping Crane nest with egg
Whooping cranes build a nest out of plant stems in a shallow marsh. They lay 1 or 2 eggs; the parents take turns incubating the eggs for an average of 30 days until hatching. The large egg is about the size of a tennis ball.
Whooping Crane chick
Whooping Crane chick
Newly-hatched whooping crane chicks are cinnamon brown. Early on, the parents feed the chick small animals such as snails, earthworms, and insects.
Whooping Crane Chick at 20 days
Whooping Crane Chick at 20 days
Even before their flight feathers have sprouted, young cranes run and exercise their wings to prepare for later flights. At 26 days old, one chick’s parents were observed bringing it 26 food items in 5 minutes! It takes a lot of groceries to make this dramatic growth spurt!
Young Whooping Crane
Young Whooping Crane
Notice the incoming white feathers.Young cranes have huge appetites. As the chicks grow, the parents begin feeding them larger prey items, such as frogs and snakes. Also, the chick begins to catch food items for itself
Whooping Crane first flight
Whooping Crane first flight
The young crane makes its first flight at around 80 days of age. By now, much of its white adult plumage has begun to replace the brown plumage of its youth. They sport 10 black feathers on the tips of their 7-8 foot wing span
Whooping Crane yearling
Whooping Crane yearling
By the time they reach one year of age, they are difficult to distinguish from their parents. Only a few brown feathers remain on the head and neck
Whooping Crane adult with red crest
Whooping Crane adult with red crest
The red on the head of adult whooping cranes and sandhill cranes is actually skin. The feathers are reduced to tiny hair-like structures. The size of this red “comb”, and the color intensity, can be “adjusted” by the bird, to be used as a signaling device—indicating to other cranes its place in the social hierarchy, and its “mood”.

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