Bully Bird?
HY01 Crane #5

March 19, 2003 ICF Update by Sara Zimorski

HY01#5 in pen with some HY02 chicks Sara Zimorski, ICF

Bossy Behavior
HY 2001 Crane #5 continues to dominate the social hierarchy at the pen. The aggression is not random as it?s directed towards certain chicks, especially chicks #7, #8, #15, and #16. It sounds funny and not very scientific, but #5 has turned into a bully. At first it seemed he was just picking on the male chicks but now his targets are evenly split; 8 and 16 are males, 7 and 15 are females. Although we feel badly for the chicks getting harassed, it?s fascinating to observe the social interactions between the birds.

Picking on Lower Birds
You might think #5 is just defending his position in the flock and reasserting his dominance over the other birds, but what?s interesting is the birds he picks on most are not that high in the hierarchy and don?t really present a challenge to him. Chick #8 is a bird who wants to be dominant. He acts tough toward the costume, often challenging and threatening us when we go in the pen, but is very often displaced by birds in the flock. Crane #16 is a large male and is somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy but is rather mellow and doesn?t seek out challenges or fights. Finally, # 7 and #15 are both rather submissive, low ranking females, who rarely bother anyone. So, maybe you would think he?s being aggressive to the submissive birds in the flock, but this isn?t entirely true either. Yearling Crane #5 actually seems to like chick #9, a small female, who is probably the most submissive bird in the entire flock. In fact, one day after we added food to the feeders Yearling #5 chased all the chicks away and kept them from eating, except for Crane #9, who he let eat from the same feeder as him.

"He Started It!"
Often there?s nothing that even instigates the aggression, or at least nothing we can detect. All of a sudden (or least that?s how it seems to us) Yearling #5 will start walking towards one of his targets. He?ll stalk them all around the pen, sometimes running and chasing for a short distance and jabbing at them. This continues for several minutes, then seems to escalate to more running and chasing which eventually causes the chick to flush and fly, sometimes just across the pen, and sometimes out of the pen. On several occasions, mostly with chick #8, we?ve seen Yearling #5 continue to pursue the chick in the air, and when the chick lands Yearling #5 lands next to him and starts chasing until he flushes once again. Though the aggression seems rather intense at the time, it?s always rather short lived. By the end of the day, all the birds are together again in the pen.

Although the aggression seems to have increased over the winter, it really hasn?t been a big problem--though we thought it might be with a large group of birds. However, we?re very glad to have the enlarged pen, which gives everyone plenty of space and gives the birds room to get away when being chased or pursued.

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure
made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).