Nebraska's Lincoln Children’s Zoo announced the hatching of two rare birds on July 15. These East African Crowned Cranes chicks were the first babies for the two parents, mother Naivasha (Na-Vash-A) and father Nukuru (Na-KU-Roo). They arrived at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in the spring of 2007. You can tell the couple apart because Naivasha has additional red markings on her cheeks.
There are only 200 East African crowned cranes residing in zoos across North America. In 2009, only nine chicks were born to this species.
The chicks are six inches tall, with nearly four inch long legs, and have yellow, fluffy feathers. A day after the chicks hatched, they began following their parents around the exhibit. Within a year, they will grow to be roughly three-feet tall.
Both parents have taken an active role in caring for the chicks. Unlike most species, cranes share the role in sitting on the nest, keeping the eggs at a constant 98 degree temperature.
Crowned cranes are named for the striking, straw colored bristle-like feathers on the top of their heads that has a crown-like appearance. The birds are mostly slate gray with white upper and under wing coverts and a black head. Their legs and bill are black, eyes are light grey, and their facial skin is white and red.
In the wild, these animals are found in the marshes, cultivated lands and grassy flatlands near rivers and lakes in eastern Congo, Uganda, and Kenya to central Tanzania.