Establishing Dominance


In a group of cranes, just as with any flock of birds there is a hierarchy structure that must be established.  This is a major part of the socialization process that occurs at Patuxent in order to get the birds to live together as a group before they are sent down here to LA.  This structure is fluid and changes over time as the birds continue to mature and as circumstances change.  Like most animals, cranes have a series of threat displays they’ll go through before they’ll actually fight and make physical contact which always brings a risk of injury.  One of the other things they’ll do is have a “stand-off” with another bird.  Height is a sign of dominance in cranes so before two cranes will actually fight they’ll stand face to face, each stretching as tall as they can be, pointing their bills up to give them extra height.  Sometimes these encounters are brief and other times they can last several minutes until one of the birds backs down or escalates the confrontation by jabbing or chasing off the opponent.  In the video you can see two cranes on the left side of the food platform having a “stand-off”.  The two cranes shown here are both males, L8-11 is on the left and L5-11 is the one on the right.  You’ll see it looks as if L8 is actually a bit taller but eventually he makes the mistake of starting to lower his head and turn away, at which point L5 takes advantage and jabs at him, displacing him from the platform and essentially winning the confrontation.  Once off the platform L8 stands up to L5 again but isn’t likely to win this next encounter given how much lower he is now positioned.

Many, many, thanks to Cassandra Washington, LDWF’s web administrator for working hard to figure out how to post video clips in this blog.  We hope to share more short videos like this with you in the future.

Video and update by Sara Zimorski