See How They Grow - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


See How They Grow

Name Our ChicksDid you know that the International Crane Foundation raises Whooping Crane chicks for release into the wild? It’s an exciting story that begins with a few precious eggs and ends with young Whooping Cranes ready for life in the wild!

Looking for more Whooping Crane news? Follow our Whooping Crane Updates and join us on Facebook.

tools of the trade200Play Video

View our video on our chick rearing facility for a behind-the-scenes intro to our work and explore our chick runs and other tools used to raise our chicks.

Did you follow our live Crane Chick Cam? In 2012-2013, we invited you into our chick rearing facility to learn first-hand how we raise our chicks. View our recorded video highlights for a few memories from the live cam.



chicks happen300

How do we produce Whooping Crane eggs in captivity?

Click on the image to the right to learn how we produce our eggs.

From playing crane matchmaker to incubating and hatching, producing Whooping Crane eggs is hard work (for our staff and the cranes!)

Each step of the process is carefully planned, and is designed to produce healthy chicks for our breeding and reintroductions programs.

Play VideoView our videos on incubating and
egg candling.


dress for success300How do we raise Whooping Cranes for reintroduction?
We Dress for Success!

Click on the image to the right to explore our crane costume.

In the 1980s, International Crane Foundation  researchers began experimenting with costume-rearing of cranes. Today, our researchers caring for young Whooping Cranes wear full-length crane costumes to hide their human form and use hand puppets that mimic an adult crane’s head to feed and interact with the chicks.

We use this costume-rearing technique, along with Whooping Crane brood models and adult crane role models, to make sure the chicks imprint on Whooping Cranes and will be prepared for life in the wild.

Play VideoView our video on imprinting and costume rearing and learn more about the International Crane Foundation’s captive rearing program.


Direct Autumn ReleaseWhy are we doing this?
Here’s the story…

In the 1940s, loss of wetlands, over hunting, and egg collecting caused the Whooping Crane population to plummet to only 21 birds. Because of the low number of Whooping Cranes in the wild, biologists proposed increasing the population through captive breeding programs, with the goal of some day releasing young cranes back into the wild.

In 1989, the International Crane Foundation received 22 Whooping Cranes to begin our captive flock. Today, we have over 30 captive Whooping Cranes and produce 10 to 20 chicks each year for reintroduction and for genetic management. Since 2005 the International Crane Foundation has co-led the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program in central Wisconsin. In the fall, young Whooping Cranes raised at our headquarters in Wisconsin are released in small groups near adult cranes. The young cranes learn their migration route by following these older cranes south in the fall.

Play VideoView our video on the DAR program and learn more about reintroducing Whooping Cranes into the wild.


 antonia_logo200_trnspSpecial thanks to the Antonia Foundation
for their generous support of this project.

Hatch to ReleasePhoto by Tom Lynn

In 2013, photographer Tom Lynn chronicled the Whooping Crane reintroduction at the International Crane Foundation through his project Hatch to Release. Click on the image above to view Tom’s time lapse video of a Whooping Crane chick’s hatch.

Attention Teachers

Bring the story of our young Whooping Cranes into your classrooms with these activities:

Field Guide to Crane Behavior (elementary/middle/high school level)

Whooping Cranes: A Historic Dance (elementary level)

Ethology: The Study of Animal Behavior (middle/high school level)

Captive Breeding: Maintaining Healthy Wildlife Populations (middle/high school level)

Support Whooping Crane Conservation

Make a special gift of any amount – $50, $100, $250, $500 – to help in the continued recovery and protection of Whooping Cranes.