A Grey Crowned-crane, which hatched at the National Aviary on July 27, made its public debut last week. The fluffy chick strutted around the historic National Aviary Rose Garden for visitors, stretching its long legs during one of its multiple daily walks. The daily walks provide the chick with opportunities to stretch its growing legs and prepare it for its role as an educational ambassador for its species.
“The hatching of our new Grey Crowned-crane chick is an exciting opportunity for visitors to experience what we at the National Aviary see every day: birds growing and thriving. Visitors can watch this chick grow up right before their eyes,” said Cathy Schlott, Curator of Behavioral Management and Education at the National Aviary. “The fact that Grey Crowned-cranes are endangered makes this little one even more special!”
Grey Crowned-cranes (Balearica regulorum) are one of the most recognizable crane species, noted for their elaborate golden-yellow plumage resembling a crown on their heads. Cranes are precocial birds, and begin walking and exploring their world within hours of hatching.
The crane chick is being hand-raised by experts at the National Aviary, where it will live behind the scenes and become an educational ambassador for its species. Visitors to the National Aviary will be able to meet the crane and learn about the species. Grey Crowned-cranes are listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with fewer than 25,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Native to the wetlands and grasslands of Eastern and Southern Africa, the species faces declining numbers due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides.
The National Aviary’s new chick weighed 87 grams when it hatched, and was about the size of a large pear, and is growing rapidly. Recently, it weighed 183 grams, about a half a pound. In just three months, the downy tan chick will reach its full adult size of over three feet tall, with a wingspan of 6.5 feet. In about 18 months, the chick will have full adult plumage, and will be a striking gray with red, black, and white features. A feather DNA test will determine the sex of the chick.