Colt schooling for Sandhill Cranes - An Overview
From hatching through the first migration, crane parents feed, protect, nurture, and educate their colt(s). Since Millie and Roy keep the colts hidden for the first week, we know little of the earliest days when colts begin to walk about and to feed. From the time we first see the young cranes, the core curriculum has three major subjects: feeding, dancing, and flying.
FEEDING - Driven by hunger and curiosity, colts peck at objects large and small. Cranes are omnivorous. As shown in the feeding portfolio, Roy and Millie forage for dragonflies, moths, insect larvae, and voles and graze on diverse berries and seeds. We suspect that the eggs and young of gulls and other ground-nesting birds are consumed as well. Gulls make nests that often produce hatchlings, but rarely have we seen a young gull. The parents pass berries, seeds, insects, and other edibles to colts, and by doing so, teach the colts to search for plant food.
DANCING - Dance training is a mainstay of a colts' education -- promoting physical coordination and fostering sociality. We have not seen young colts dance with each other but only with a parent. Dance moves and steps are practiced and refined as colts mature. The lesson plan for dance training:
- First, adults first motivate the colt. An adult, usually Roy, gets the colt's attention with a series of runs ending in a spectacular jump.
- Next, the young colt watches intently and runs, careening alongside Roy. As they are running, Roy suddenly wheels around to face off with the colt in order to begin a dance.
- In response - the colt answers Roy's display with a complementary display. At younger ages, the colt begins to make tentative crouches and hops. With practice and more maturity, the colt masters the "strut", the "forward wing display", and the "one wing spin". Late in the summer, Roy often dances with the colt. One of his stunning whirling turns is shown in the tour jete gallery.
FLIGHT TRAINING - Flying requires strength, coordination, practice, and flight feathers. From the early days, colts walk about with their parents and flap their tiny rudimental wings. Pre-flight training involves running, flapping, and then, as the wing feathers fill in, bounding to facilitate gliding. Both dance training and pre-flight training prepare the youngsters for the first flights and the fall migration. By late summer, the family often takes increasingly-longer day trips and even overnights in nearby ponds.
• 2 - First week
• 3 - Incubation
• 4 - Roy's ice dancing
• 5 - Pi hatches
• 6 - Pi dances
• 7 - Dodging Danger
• 8 - Dragonflies
• 9 - Fitness for flight
• 10 - Swim with Dad
• 11 - Dance and fly
• 12 - August flight school
• 13 - Foraging and intruders
• 14 - Pi explores his world
• 15- -Time to migrate