Sandhill Crane colt growing up
.The Preserve’s resident Sandhill Crane family has been showing off their colt these last two weeks on the meadows west of the Class of 1918 Marsh. Papa crane would occasionally look around, checking for potential danger, while Mama crane was doting on their colt, now larger than herself and feed him choice tidbits found in the wet marshland. The three didn’t mind human joggers coming by, we noted. But when some playing dogs came closer, the they stalked slowly the other way.
And then, like magic, all three took off simultaneously and flew across the marsh to the other side, elegantly flapping their wings. We were witness to “Wildness Incarnate”, as Aldo Leopold wrote in his poetic Marshland Elegy.
We had watched the colt as a little chick, still covered with down feathers earlier in June. In Sandhill Cranes, these soft feathers are replaced about two months after hatching as their cinnamon-colored juvenile plumage grows out from the base of the same feather. In turn, the juvenile plumage will be molted and followed by the first gray winter plumage. Young colts are ready to take their first flight within 10 weeks, and we can assume that this healthy colt is about 3 months old.
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Gisela Kutzbach and contributors