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Chinese cranes got fledgings at the Moscow Zoo

This summer, fledglings of the Chinese black-necked crane hatched at the Moscow Zoo. The event is far from ordinary as the black-necked crane is a very rare bird. It can be found only in China, the total quantity of the population making as little as about one and a half thousands.

Surprisingly as it may seem, this crane is the only one in the world that lives in the mountains! Its habitat is valleys of mountain rivers and lakes. Besides China, the black-necked crane is kept only in one Zoo of Europe – in Walsrode (Germany). This species was for the first time described by Przhevalsky in 1876. It is now registered in the strictest category of the International Red Book.

“We received a couple of cranes in exchange from China in 2000, says Olga Rozdina, leading ornithologist of the Moscow Zoo. The birds were in a rather poor state: feathering was dishevelled, the beak flaked, the toes were crooked. We treated them by probiotics, immunostimulants and vitamins. The birds recovered, and in 2004 they made the first laying of two eggs. At 9 a.m. we heard a typical sound with the help of which adult birds communicate with fledglings. However, when we came up to the nest, we saw a fledgling in a thin undershell capsule. In spite of the fact that the little fledgling was placed into the incubator, it died soon from overcooling and inflammation of the yolk sac.” In a year, the cranes laid two eggs again but the attempt failed again.

“This year we decided that only artificial incubation should be used, continues Olga Rozdina. Therefore, when the birds laid eggs again, we took them away on the 14th day and placed in the incubator. Two fledglings hatched on the 35th day. One of them, unfortunately, lived only for three days. The second one is two months old now.”

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The cranes, when deprived of eggs, usually make the second laying. So did the couple of black-necked cranes. In the incubator, two fledglings successfully hatched from the second laying, one of them perished on the 8th day. The second fledgling is already a month old.

Olga opens the outdoor aviary, where a two-month old baby-crane walks slightly rocking on thin legs. It seems rather tall already, its head and neck are still covered by fledgling’s ginger down, but the body is already covered by grey feather. The Zoo staff airs the fledging every day to strengthen its muscles. Its younger brother is kept in another aviary. It is still very small and all covered by ginger down. Unfortunately, the fledglings can not be kept together: the elder one makes use of being stronger and offends the little one.

Here are the parents. A couple of big powerful birds - black-necked cranes are not similar by habitus to graceful Japanese cranes (Grus japonensis) or thin hooded cranes (Grus monacha). They are light grey, the neck being black as it should be judging by the name, and there is a little red cap on the head. “They will now give me a piece of their mind”, says Olga. Indeed: the birds simultaneously cast the heads up and cry in shrill voices in unison.

Next year ornithologists will give them a chance to become real parents and will try to put eggs under them prior to hatching of fledglings.

Nadezda Markina | alfa
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