On March 20, a wattled crane cracked its egg to become the third of its species to hatch in the National Zoo’s history. Unlike mammals, the crane was ready to make an appearance almost immediately, showing off its downy feathers to visitors in the Crane Run.
This baby is an important addition to the zoo for another reason: Wattled cranes are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Hunting, habitat encroachment and power lines have made captivity breeding a necessity if the cranes — numbering only in the thousands in the wild — are to survive.
The chick has a way to go before it can walk with the big cranes. These largest of the African cranes stand six feet tall, on average. The wattle is used for expression — extending it to show aggression or agitation and constricting it to show submission or fear. For now, baby will have to rely on its mother for expression; the chick’s wattle is barely visible.
Also in question is the gender of this newly hatched chick. As we went to press, blood work was underway to decide if the chick is she or he. For now, the crane remains an enigma, waiting for zoo powers that be to open the naming contest for the chick.
I vote for Legs.