What it Takes to Raise a Whooping Crane Chick

Whooping Crane chick swimmingA lot goes into preparing a chick for release into the wild and (spoiler alert) the key is you! 

With just over 400 in the wild, our painstaking work to raise and reintroduce Whooping Cranes to their natural environment is critical and urgent. But we’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t easy.

As you might expect, walking a species back from the brink of extinction is a lot more complicated than hatching chicks. Once hatched, what comes next takes intensive, specialized attention for which there is no instruction booklet…other than the one we continue to create every single day.

Here’s a snapshot of what it takes to prepare a chick – from hatch to release – to be a member of the wild flock:

113 Pounds of specialized crane food per chick to meet the unique dietary requirements of a bird that can grow close to an inch a day!

12 Number of custom-made crane costumes used to make sure that the chicks never imprint on people and are ready to be successful members of a wild flock.

389 Number of hydrating drinks consumed by staff – costumed from head to toe – after working with chicks in the heat of long summer days.

3,400 Gallons of water used in the on-site swimming pool to aid the chicks’ healthy development and build strength (upper right).

6,500 Hours invested in chick rearing by staff and interns. For 15 hours a day, 7 days a week staff and interns are feeding chicks, keeping chicks warm, cleaning enclosures, encouraging exercise, evaluating growth, teaching good social skills and predator awareness, providing swimming opportunities, confirming well-being, and recording data.

56 Combined years of experience among the International Crane Foundation staff caring for chicks. Twenty-eight of those are the years Marianne Wellington has led the Chick Rearing program. You may (or, more likely, may not!) recognize her as the lady in the costume.

35 Visits by the veterinary staff to each chick during their first four months, to keep them healthy and strong.

606 Database entries per chick tracking food eaten, weight gain, behaviors, treatments, and health status.

Whooping Crane chick health check
During routine health checks, veterinary staff wear gray costumes so that more positive experiences are associate the the white costume that the caretakers wear. Photo by Joel Sartore, www.joelsartore.com

When it comes down to it, none of these activities would be possible without one key component – you! In fact, none of the steps that come next – tracking, building public awareness, limiting threats along the flyway, and more – would be possible without you either. You are the key and we couldn’t be more grateful for your support.

Ways to Give

Click here to donate online or call: (608)356-9462.

We envision a future where our captive rearing programs are no longer needed, where Whooping Cranes are thriving in the wild on their own. That future is possible. And with each breeding season that passes, we are one step closer. But for now, with wild Whooping Crane numbers still dangerously low, this work must continue. One chick at a time.

Please consider making a donation to the International Crane Foundation to support our work. Your donation ensures that we have the resources needed to continue to protect this incredible species from the threat of extinction. Thank you!