Whooping Cranes Spirit and Cloud Welcome a New Family Member

Our Southeast Asia Program Director Tran Triet is documenting the nesting of Spirit (24-17) and Cloud (4-17), a pair of reintroduced Whooping Cranes in Sauk County, Wisconsin. Read part one of this series, A Morning With Spirit and Cloud.

Join Triet as he shares the hatching of the pairs’ chick, W4-23, and another harrowing encounter with a coyote.

Two Whooping Crane adult and chick in wetland

May 16: Meet one of the newest members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Population! The chick hatched on May 12 and is four days old today – look for the cinnamon-colored head in the grass between the parents.

Two adult Whooping Cranes unison calling

The adults spend all their time near their chick. The male Cloud is very alert to all movements and sounds, and the pair unison calls very often, telling the whole world about their newborn.

May 20: The chick is eight days old today. It’s getting bigger, and I can spot it easier from the blind, about a football field’s length away.

8:35 a.m.: Cloud suddenly walked fast to the south as if chasing off other birds, but no larger birds were around (usually, he doesn’t care about small birds). I scanned the field. My heart pounded when I saw a pair of coyote ears peeking up from the grass. Cloud called loudly and walked fast toward the coyote. He flapped his wide-spread wings – a Whooping Crane has a seven-foot wingspan. The coyote retreated a bit farther from the nest. The female Spirit quickly walked the chick back to the nest, surrounded by water. 

8:45 a.m.: Cloud suddenly turned to the east. He ran and flew close to the ground, neck and bill stretched forward. I looked in that direction. Sure enough, the coyote was running toward the nest from the east. Perhaps he tried to outflank Cloud, who charged very close to the coyote, within three feet. The coyote retreated to the south and sat there, looking fiercely at the nest. 

8:50 a.m.: Cloud walked back and forth, staying about 30 yards from the nest to draw the coyote’s attention away from Spirit and the chick. Cloud then walked closer to the coyote again. He did not attack but maintained a firm defensive stance. The coyote sat and watched. Cloud and the coyote kept a good distance from each other. Both Cloud and Spirit were calling loudly and repeatedly.

9:05 a.m.: the coyote disappeared, but Cloud and Spirit were still very alert. Their normal foraging resumed about 10 minutes later. The chick hid the whole time, perhaps staying low in the grass. Today, it learned a thing or two about coyotes from its mom and dad.


Story by Tran Triet, Southeast Asia Program Director.