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: Its a small, about a 30 acre lake out here. And we had a drought. And, its 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 didnt 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 McDonalds sign out when youre starving to death. Theyve 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, Im 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, theyre not sure whether this one is a male or female. So they brought me "Its a Boy, Its a Girl."
CURWOOD: So, what do you do if youre a human grandfather to a whooping crane chick? How are you supposed to act?
TINDELL: I dont 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 wasnt sitting on the nest the morning the bald eagle came by. My wife gave him that name.
CURWOOD: Whats it going to be like to see Lucky fly away one day?
TINDELL: Its going to be heartbreaking. But, hopefully, well get to see him again. If the marsh stays as it is now, theres a good chance that this same pair will come back here this next year, and nest again. So hopefully, well see them again.
CURWOOD: Gene Tindell watches the whoopers from his home in Leesburg, Florida. Thanks for the birdseye view, Gene.
TINDELL: Thank you.
[SOUND OF BIRDS]
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