3 whooping crane chicks hatch at Calgary Zoo

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The Calgary Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Centre has successfully helped three pairs of whooping cranes hatch chicks. (The Calgary Zoo - image credit)
The Calgary Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Centre has successfully helped three pairs of whooping cranes hatch chicks. (The Calgary Zoo - image credit)

The Calgary Zoo is celebrating the successful hatching of three whooping crane chicks.

"Breeding endangered whooping cranes and hatching chicks successfully is always challenging, even more so during a global pandemic, but we did it," the zoo said in a release Friday.

The chicks were hatched at the zoo's Wildlife Conservation Centre to three different sets of parents.

One chick was the product of assisted reproductive therapy carried out earlier this spring.

Whooping crane eggs take about 29 to 31 days to hatch.

At about the 28th day, the zoo's animal care experts noticed the chick was starting to hatch but it was malpositioned and had popped outside of its air cell.

There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the wild in North America, the Calgary Zoo says.
There are only about 600 whooping cranes in the wild in North America, the Calgary Zoo says. (The Calgary Zoo)

"The animal care, health and welfare team sprang into action. With the helping hands of the veterinary team, the first whooping crane chick of 2021 successfully hatched," the zoo said.

Another of the chicks was the first to successfully hatch after three failed attempts for a whooper pair known as Tim and Bombadil.

"Sometimes they move their eggs around too much. Sometimes they peck them too hard. Sometimes they leave them unattended. They figured it out this year, and after 32 days of sharing egg sitting duties, they successfully hatched a chick," the zoo said.

The final chick, which was actually the second fertile egg from Tim and Bombadil, is being foster-reared by an experienced whooper parenting pair who didn't produce a fertile egg of their own this year.

"Gary Snyder and Inukshuk are solid incubators and excellent chick raisers but didn't produce a fertile egg of their own this year. Thirty-three days of shared egg sitting duties and Gary Snyder and Inukshuk successfully hatched Tim and Bombadil's second fertile egg and are off to a great start raising their chick," the zoo said.

The whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America — adults stand at almost 1.5 metres — and the rarest of the crane species.

The wild population of whooping cranes was down to 21 birds in the 1940s because of widespread hunting and habitat loss, the zoo said.

But after concerted conservation efforts, there are now an estimated 600 of them in the wild spread across four populations in North America.

The Calgary Zoo has been involved with whooping crane conservation since 1992. Its whooping crane recovery program is funded by ConocoPhillips Canada.

Proud whooping crane parents of a freshly-hatched chick at the Calgary Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Centre.
Proud whooping crane parents of a freshly-hatched chick at the Calgary Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Centre.(The Calgary Zoo)