Of true love, AI, and dedicated zookeepers
April 11, 2015 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Chris Crowe has a girlfriend. She stands a leggy 5 feet tall, weighs a trim 11 pounds, and sports a set of wings like you’ve never seen. Walnut the white-naped crane is the most genetically distinct endangered crane on the block — which means she needs to have been making babies, like, yesterday. Walnut was raised by humans at a zoo, and as a result, she recognizes and trusts humans — and is deeply hostile to other cranes. How hostile? She killed the two male cranes that her former keepers attempted to pair with her. "I like to jokingly tell people that Walnut ‘allegedly’ killed two male cranes," Crowe says. "It’s not like she was tried and convicted. We don’t know her side of the story."
posted by ChuraChura (23 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was sweet.
posted by jaguar at 7:48 AM on April 11, 2015


I once had an African Crowned Crane perform a mating dance for me. Told it I was flattered, but that I was married to the woman laughing hysterically.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


hmm, A crow and a crane...
posted by dreamling at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Good story, good post.

"I like to joke that our relationship gives me great job security, but she would eventually bond with another keeper provided they were male and took the time to court her," he says.

Is there any basis for the bolded bit?
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:41 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It must make for interesting first date conversation. "So, what do you do?" "Well, I'm a zookeeper, and my primary job is mating with a crane. She's sweet."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:45 AM on April 11, 2015


I know that Alice the Great Horned Owl became imprinted on humans and is "mated" with her female handler Karla Bloem, but it's possible they've only seen this crane respond to male contact.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on April 11, 2015 [3 favorites]



I once had an African Crowned Crane perform a mating dance for me. Told it I was flattered, but that I was married to the woman laughing hysterically.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:09 AM on April 11


The same thing happened to me at a fair, with a male turkey. On his card a judge had written "Nice Turkey" and when I read that aloud and added, "You really are a nice turkey!" (he really was a spectacular bird), he instantly puffed up his tail feathers and started strutting around his cage, making noises and staring at me. It was...disconcerting. My mother thought it was hilarious.
posted by jenjenc at 9:13 AM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't speak to real science and would love to know if anyone can, but I know that people I used to know who kept parrots treated it like a well-known fact that certain parrots had strong gender preferences one way or the other. I don't know why that should be true of parrots but not of cranes.
posted by Sequence at 9:50 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is crazy.
posted by maryr at 9:52 AM on April 11, 2015


Hehehe Sequence, I was just going to say something about parrots...I always had budgies until I decided to adopt a third hand cockatiel. Early on he decided we were mates despite the fact that I already have a mate. We make fun of this, but every spring it's band aids and ear plugs. I always thought that larger parrots bonded so strongly, not the little guys. Right now it's breeding season and he's hopelessly at a loss as to why I don't want to build a nest under the stove.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Not a single bird has ever performed a mating dance for me. The closest I've ever come is cats rubbing their butts on me, which is actually not all that special feeling.
posted by jeather at 10:45 AM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


certain parrots had strong gender preferences one way or the other

We saw this at the Butterfly Garden in Victoria, BC. One of the parrots would only interact with women. The keeper said it would hop onto a man only as a means to get to a woman.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The stuff in the Karla Bloem interview - does anyone know why they're not allowed to release into the wild without extraordinary precautions?
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on April 11, 2015


I'm not 100% sure, but I think it has to do with the wildlife permit that she qualifies for. She has a license to keep and to breed owls for research purposes, but not for the purpose of species propagation. She also doesn't have a rehabilitation license, which she briefly discusses when she talks about her research plan to have her breeding pair raise a set of foster owlets.
posted by muddgirl at 11:45 AM on April 11, 2015


Hey, one of these chicks looks like you, Chris!
posted by The Zeroth Law at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2015


I don't know how birds know, but I agree they seem to have a gender awareness and preference. I would love to see some science to back it up but it's uncanny. My husband and I had a pet crow (it's a long story) and she liked me way better even though my husband was the primary care giver. It wasn't until we had "her" DNA sexed that this preference started to make sense. (He was also very bossy with me than with my husband; female crows are low on the totem pole in crow families.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:37 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not just birds. Once upon a time I dated a guy who live in a house with two couples, and a cat. The cat was a hunter and brought back mousey gifts for the two women quite often. Then both couples split in the same week, and the women moved out. No mouse gifts for two weeks. Until I (also female) stayed over one night-- mouse gift for me in the morning. (I got to deal with it, after all the gift was clearly for me).

As for this story, well, all he ever meant to do was to keep her (species alive?)..
posted by nat at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was telling the owner of an African Gray, a nice, white-haired lady in her sixties, that my SO's Yellow-Naped Amazon loves him devotedly yet nips him pretty often.

The lady nodded sagely and said, "Parrots are rough lovers."

I changed the subject, lest details might be forthcoming.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:48 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]




"He's a bit frisky."
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:51 PM on April 11, 2015


I don't know how birds know, but I agree they seem to have a gender awareness and preference.

Yes, actually, there was some discussion about this recently here.
posted by effugas at 11:11 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My two chickens, um, flirt with me all the time. I always turn them down gently, of course, but that only deters them for a bit.
posted by tommasz at 6:03 AM on April 12, 2015


We have a cockatiel who lives at the shop where I work, and he always pays more attention to male customers-- he's much more likely to whistle and chirp at them, and tends to ignore women.
posted by nonasuch at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2015


« Older Deaf Rappers Fight to be Heard in a Field...   |   Samuel Delaney reviews Star Wars Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments