Differences in parental care behavior between Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) and Greater Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis tabida) at Necedah Wildlife Refuge.

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Willis, Michelle
Life Sciences
article description
The endangered Whooping Crane was reintroduced into Wisconsin in 2001.Whooping and Greater Sandhill Cranes breed in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin. The ground nests of these birds are fairly large and each breeding pair usually lays one or two eggs between April and June. After about a mouth of incubation the colts hatch and eventually fledge from the nest. The first year of life is shown to be the most vulnerable time period for these birds. The wild population of Whooping Cranes, which breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada, has an annual chick survival rate of 0.42 while the annual adult survival is 0.87. In spring 2014, data from trail cameras were collected at nine Whooping Crane and seven Sandhill Crane nests. Cameras took one photo every 5 minutes. Pictures were sorted and then individually tagged with behaviors exhibited by the birds at the nest. I compared behavior indicative of parental care (average time spent tending, brooding, both tending and brooding, and time spent away from colt) at each nest between Sandhill (n=4) and Whooping (n=5) crane nests. Differences between the two species were then analyzed using a two-way factorial ANOVA with subsampling. Results show that Sandhill Cranes spent more time brooding (F(0.05)1,7=13.33, P=0.0082) and caring for the colt (F(0.05)1,7=14.27, P=0.0069) .Whooping and Sandhill Cranes spent similar amounts of time tending the colt and away from the nest (F(0.05)1,7=0.3, P=0.6017 and F(0.05)1,7=0.68, P=0.4374 respectively). Our results indicate a difference in parental care behavior between these two crane species. More research is needed to determine if a difference in parental care results in a difference in fledging success.