When the chick's health check was complete (see Nov 1 post), he was released again to his parents and immediately ran to the water to escape.
Adult whooping cranes are wading birds, but their young are capable of swimming as a natural defense against predation. One of the many important functions of wetlands to this species, whooping cranes build their nests on elevated platforms in the water, making the chick less vulnerable to predation from the shore. Adult whooping cranes also roost in water so that the sound of a splash can wake them if a predator approaches.
The two-day old chick you see here could swim much faster than he could run in the grass. As the chick matures, his legs will rapidly grow taller and the webs on his feet will disappear. Below the male stands guard as the female forages for food to feed the chick.
Still stressed, the chick initially swam rapidly around the open water. The female gains his attention and offers food. Feeding helps to restore calm to the family.
She watches as he swallows the food she offered him.
The chick soon climbs out of the water and is surrounded by attentive parents eager to feed and sooth him.
Throughout my observations, attentiveness was evident in the way the parents stayed close to their chick, watched over him and offered him food, tirelessly and without pause. I enjoy the larger images that show habitat, that offer a larger understanding of the species ecology and the story of their lives. And then there are the close ups, the images that allow you to see into their eyes, to look more deeply into the bond between parent and chick. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love photography?) Within a short time, former peace is restored to the whooping crane family and the parents return to a tranquil pace of foraging and feeding their young chick.
Don't miss the whooping crane chick video! Click the link to see the entire Whooping Crane Family series (start at the bottom where it begins!) Also check out the whooping crane ultralight migration and the whooping crane's recovery.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #10, at Birdfreak.com, raising bird conservation awareness.