Rescued Eggs Become Eastern Flock's FIRST Chicks!

by Kelly Maguire, ICF Aviculturist.


Parents Leave Eggs
The two eggs laid at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge by Whooping Crane pair #213 and #218 were picked up on April 24, 2006. The eggs were collected after Richard Urbanek (USFWS) and Lara Fondow (USFWS) checked on the pair in the late afternoon and saw the parents were not near the nest. Lara stayed to watch and see if the adults would come back to the nest. Richard made calls to arrange possible collection and transport of the eggs to ICF if they were still in the nest. Lara continued to watch the nest. After two hours the adults showed no sign of coming back to the nest. That’s when Richard and Lara went out to check on it. They found two eggs in the nest. They removed the two eggs and replaced them with one dummy egg, in case the adults finally came back and resumed incubating. (They never did).

The Traveling Eggs
Richard transferred the eggs to ICF in a warm egg box, but the eggs were still cool to the touch when arriving at ICF. Once at ICF we candled the eggs (held a light to them). This showed us that both eggs were fertile. The youngest of the eggs had a small hole in the shell, probably made by an adult bird accidentally stepping on it and puncturing the shell with a claw. Luckily, the hole did not go through the inner egg membrane, so the embryo still had some protection. I covered the hole with a small piece of permeable tape to help protect the embryo inside. These eggs had three things going for them: 1) They were both good size eggs; 2) It was a very warm day when they were abandoned, so the sun kept them warm; and 3) Richard and Lara re experts.

Kelly Cares for the Eggs
Once we determined the eggs were fertile, I disinfected them and placed them into a machine incubator. I checked them every morning to see if the aircells broke down, which would be the first sign that the embryo might have died. Each day I checked, I was pleasantly surprised that everything looked good. However, the real test would be on April 29 when both embryos should start moving. When I checked them on the 29th, I placed them on a counter and played a Whooping Crane call to stimulate the embryo. Neither egg moved. I then floated the eggs in warm water--the water amplifies any small movement that may not have been picked up on the counter. The younger egg did not move, but the older egg just started rocking! I couldn't’t believe it! I checked the younger one again, and it moved a bit the second time! Both viable!!

Meet #602!

A Happy Ending
On May 4th the two Necedah eggs were packed up in an egg box with four ICF eggs and carried to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland by Nat Warning, ICF Aviculturist. The older Necedah egg and the oldest ICF eggs were peeping when they arrived. On May 5, 2006, the first Necedah egg hatched, followed by the second one on May 7, 2006. These are the first chicks to be hatched from eggs laid by birds of the new Eastern flock!

NOTE: The May 5th chick became #602 in the ultralight-led Class of 2006! The May 7th chick became #603.


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