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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Whooping Cranes

Air Date: Week of

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It's not every day a pair of endangered whooping cranes sets up house in a suburban backyard. Host Steve Curwood talks with Gene Tindell about the cranes raising a chick just 50 yards from his back door.


CURWOOD: You’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth. Think, for a moment, how you might feel looking out your window and seeing a pair of four foot tall endangered whooping cranes building a nest 50 yards away. That’s what happened to Gene Tindell at his home in Leesburg, Florida. And now, the cranes are raising a chick, only the second successful hatching in the wild by captive-bred parents.

Mr. Tindell, please tell us about the place these birds have chosen to call home. What does it look like?

TINDELL: It’s a small, about a 30 acre lake out here. And we had a drought. And, it’s just turned into--from a lake to a marsh.

CURWOOD: Now, why do you think they picked your house, these whooping cranes?

TINDELL: Well, the Game and Fish Commission really didn’t approve of this. But, we have mallard ducks back here. And, I would feed them cracked corn everyday. And I guess when the whooping cranes came over, they saw the cracked corn. The Game and Fish Commission said it was just like being on the interstate and seeing a McDonald’s sign out when you’re starving to death. They’ve been here ever since.

(Photo: Gene Tindell)

CURWOOD: They had a baby, huh?

TINDELL: They had two. The first one was hatched overnight on March the 12th. The second one was hatched overnight on March the 14th. But on the 15th, about 8:30 in the morning, the bald eagle took chick number two off the nest.

CURWOOD: Ooh, how did that feel to see that?

TINDELL: Oh, it broke my heart.

CURWOOD: Now, I’m wondering if you feel like an honorary grandfather to them.

TINDELL: [Laughing] I feel like it.

CURWOOD: Are you handing out cigars?

TINDELL: No, but the Game and Fish Commission brought me two. And, they’re not sure whether this one is a male or female. So they brought me "It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl."

CURWOOD: So, what do you do if you’re a human grandfather to a whooping crane chick? How are you supposed to act?

TINDELL: I don’t know. Mostly observe. And, people come by and want to see them. I let them come in the yard, and give them a better view of the chick.

CURWOOD: What about the predator situation there?

TINDELL: Well, if I see the bald eagle flying around overhead, I walk down to the edge of the marsh, and stand there until he leaves. But, I try to protect him as much as I can.

CURWOOD: Is there a name, by the way, for this baby?

TINDELL: Yes. Lucky. He was lucky he wasn’t sitting on the nest the morning the bald eagle came by. My wife gave him that name.

CURWOOD: What’s it going to be like to see Lucky fly away one day?

TINDELL: It’s going to be heartbreaking. But, hopefully, we’ll get to see him again. If the marsh stays as it is now, there’s a good chance that this same pair will come back here this next year, and nest again. So hopefully, we’ll see them again.

CURWOOD: Gene Tindell watches the whoopers from his home in Leesburg, Florida. Thanks for the birdseye view, Gene.

TINDELL: Thank you.




U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Whooping Crane Fact Sheet">


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