How do cranes eat crabs?

In the wild, the crane parents teach the chick by showing and doing. On the larger crabs, a crane first pulls off the claws. It picks up the blue crab by one claw and then flings it so the claw rips off. The crane repeats that step until the crab is clawless. They usually carry the clawless crab to very shallow water or to the bank at the edge of the pond, drop the crab upside down, and then peck it apart from the softer underside. Not all of the shell is eaten; at this point they just eat all the insides. On smaller crabs (smaller than the palm of your hand) cranes may just swallow the whole crab. The youngsters learn these techniques by watching Mom and Dad.

But who teaches the youngsters who have no parents except an ultralight airplane?

When the ultra-chicks arrive in Florida, the "costumes" get some crabs. They use the puppet to show the chicks how to break the shell and find the good part. It doesn’t take long before the youngsters catch on and hunt for their own crabs.



Photo Alan Murphy

Crabs are in the mud at the bottom. The crane probes the mud with its beak and pulls out the unlucky crab it found. Those long legs and long, sharp beaks are helpful!