Date: February 10, 2016
University of Tennessee
The whooping crane, with its snowy white plumage and trumpeting call, is one of the most beloved American birds, and one of the most endangered. As captive-raised cranes are re-introduced in
they are gaining a new descriptor: natural killer. Louisiana
A new study from the
University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, suggests cranes are faring well thanks in
part to their penchant for hunting reptiles and amphibians. Louisiana
Until now, mostly anecdotal evidence existed that whooping cranes regularly hunt reptiles and amphibians. Their natural history is insufficiently known, despite years of research.
Vladimir Dinets, a UT assistant professor of psychology, observed whooping cranes while participating in a reintroduction project in
where these birds are being released after decades of absence. Since little
natural habitat remains there, the captive-raised birds have to adapt to an
agricultural landscape. Louisiana
Dinets' study showed that reptiles and amphibians are an important high-value food source for the reintroduced whooping cranes, particularly in spring nesting season. Previously, some observers considered reptiles and amphibians to be only occasional prey of whooping cranes.
The findings were published recently in the American Midland Naturalist.