New Blue Crane Joins ICF Flock

By Kim Boardman and Kelly Maguire, ICF Aviculturists

On November 16, 2011, ICF received a young male Blue Crane from the National Zoological Park (NZP). The young crane, named Kito (Swahili for ‘precious child’) by ICF staff, was hatched in May 2011 and was parent–reared at NZP. Kito was donated to ICF to be paired with our female Blue Crane, Veld. Veld lost her previous mate in 2009 and, as many visitors to ICF since then may know, hasn’t been comfortable spending much time on exhibit.

Following ICF’s standard protocol for all new bird acquisitions, Kito was required to spend a minimum of 30 days in a quarantine environment to be sure he was clear of any disease or parasites that could potentially be passed on to the rest of our flock. Quarantine is a semi-stressful environment for all birds; however, Kito was especially unnerved by this new situation, as he had only recently been separated from his parents for his transfer to ICF. To help Kito not feel so alone, ICF’s Crane Conservation Department (CCD) staff recorded Veld calling and played this to Kito any time they were at his building. This along with other measures, such as presenting treats (we discovered that he LOVES unshelled peanuts!), helped calm Kito down for the duration of his time in quarantine.

Kito was then transferred to the Johnson Exhibit Pod where he could be housed within sight of Veld, but due to some lingering medical concerns still had to remain separate. He immediately was comforted by the sight of another Blue Crane and began contact calling to her (a soft purr used to communicate between individuals). After ten days, Kito was no longer content just being housed next to Veld, and he began to pace the fence that separated them. This behavior would intensify whenever Veld would go outside or even just step away from the fence to eat.

On the 3rd of January, Kito was given his final “all clear” from ICF’s Veterinary staff, and we took this opportunity to start socializing the two birds. The socialization of adult cranes can take anywhere between a few weeks to several years to be successful. Given the interest both birds had expressed in each other while separated, staff suspected this pairing would progress quickly, but were impressed just how quickly. The first time they were given access to each other’s pen, Veld ran over to stand beside Kito before staff could even leave the pen!  The two rarely spent time more than a few feet apart and both appeared very comfortable.  Over the course of three days, under close CCD staff observation, the cranes quickly developed a bond and few issues have been seen.

Because Kito is still a juvenile, it is unclear at this point whether the pair-bond formed between the two will be more of a parent-child nature or that of a mating pair. We are very hopeful though that this new relationship will be beneficial to both birds and that visitors in 2012 will be able to welcome the new pair on exhibit!

Love at first sight? Kito (top left – the larger of the two cranes) quickly bonded with Veld after they were introduced earlier this winter. We hope to have the two Blue Cranes on display for our 2012 visitor season beginning April 15th.