Wild Whooping Cranes May Not Make The Best Parents

Professor Vladimir Dinets conducted a study that revealed birds not raised by their parents may have a better chance of survival.

Professor Vladimir Dinets conducted a study that revealed birds not raised by their parents may have a better chance of survival.


Parents teach their children right from wrong. Sometimes they give them the guidance and skills to survive whatever life challenges may come their way, while others may be overprotective, sheltering their children from the world, which could result in the lack of skills to survive when they?e out on their own. According to a study led by Research Assistant Professor of Psychology Vladimir Dinets, the parental skills of whooping cranes may just fall into that latter category.

The study, which was published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, involved captive-raised whooping cranes that were then “reintroduced to an area where the species has been extinct for decades,?amp;nbsp;Phys.org reports. Dinets also looked at data involving birds raised by wild cranes. Wild cranes teach their young “to be shy of humans and to choose the most remote pristine habitats.?However, there are few such habitats left.

Dinets discovered through his study that the captive-raised cranes had a better survival rate than the naturally raised cranes. He found that “wild cranes wintering in Texas are very conservative about their habitat: parents teach their young to live in coastal marshes and oak savannas and avoid humans. The human-raised birds, while sometimes shy, quickly learned to use all kinds of habitats, such as natural prairies, rice fields, ponds, levees and even flooded forests where they hunt for tadpoles in spring,?Phys.org reports.

Dinets came to the conclusion that while learning from parents isn? a bad thing, learning another way of doing things may be beneficial to birds who have to survive a changing environment.

“Captive-raised animals don’t receive the accumulated wisdom of their ancestors and have to learn everything by trial and error. So their human parents try to do their best to teach them at least some survival skills. There are cases where tame human-raised birds have been successfully reintroduced to heavily modified habitats and appear to flourish. There are also cases where wild birds seem to suffer from clinging too stubbornly to old traditions,” Dinets told Phys.org. “For millennia the wisdom of elders has been considered the most precious knowledge, never to be doubted. But today our environment is changing at breathtaking speed. Following old traditions in a world where ten-year-olds are more computer-savvy than their parents, not to mention grandparents, might not be the best way to adapt. If we want to avoid extinction, we should be innovative, not conservative.”

Click here to read the study in its entirety.

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