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Two West African Black-Crowned Crane chicks were hatched, at Chester Zoo in the UK!  The babies are the first of their kind to arrive at the zoo this year.

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African cranes_1Photo Credits: Steve Rawlins

The chicks made their appearance at Chester Zoo in July.  Their father was born in 2002, and he was the first parent-reared West African Black-Crowned Crane to hatch at the zoo.  The proud mother of the new chicks was born in 1998.  The species is known to be monogamous, and the parents will remain a couple for life.  Preferring a habitat of wet grasslands, couples will build their nests together and take turns tending to the eggs for the 30 day incubation period.  Their co-parenting continues once the young hatch, as well. 

Curator of birds, Andrew Owen, said, “This is a very significant breeding, the first in the UK this year. Currently the chicks are small, yellow and fluffy and it’s hard to believe that they’ll grow up to look as striking and unusual as mum and dad. But soon enough, they’ll develop golden feathers on top of their heads that almost resemble a Roman helmet. Already the young are very confident and capable of foraging with their parents. Cranes are also known for their elaborate dances, and our young chicks are already capable of some nifty moves!”

According to the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as “Vulnerable”, due to recent surveys that have shown a rapid decline that is predicted to continue in the future. With just 15,000 estimated to be in the wild, the birds’ range spans from Senegal to Chad, but its habitat is under threat due to drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution. The capture and trade of the species is also having a dramatic effect on wild numbers.

Mr. Owen adds, “As well as suffering from habitat loss and poisoning by farmers, Black-Crowned Cranes are also caught and used as ‘guard dogs’. They are also disappearing as they hit newly installed overhead power lines. This all means that sadly, these birds are now very rare in the wild.”

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