Arts and Culture

The Louisville Zoo’s east African crowned crane couple, Freddy and Barbara, have welcomed the first chick of the species in the zoo’s 52-year history.

The female chick hatched on Oct. 12 to 19-year-old Freddy and 4-year old Barbara, according to zoo officials.

“We’ve featured this wonderful species since the Zoo opened in 1969, and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate this little chick,” Louisville Zoo executive director Dan Maloney said in a press release. “Our aviculturists have done an incredible job with the hatchling and her parents, and we look forward to watching the pair raise her.”

Cranes can be difficult to breed in captivity, Assistant Director of Conservation, Education and Collections Steven Taylor told WFPL. 

“Cranes are well known for having these intricate type of ‘dances,’ is what we call them,” Taylor said. “That helps to solidify the relationship between the male and the female.”

In order to breed, the birds need to like each other, have an opportunity to dance and “speak the same language,” Taylor says.

“Even when they do their dance, if they don’t connect in the right way, then you’re probably not going to have a lot of success,” he said.

Freddy and Barbara's first-born.Jess Clark | wfpl.org

Also called gray crowned cranes, the birds are native to Uganda and many other east African countries.

“These are beautiful birds which unfortunately are starting to see their numbers drop,” Steven Taylor said

Habitat destruction and poaching are threatening the species. Part of the problem is the illegal collection of eggs and chicks for sale in the pet industry.

Zoo officials say Freddy, Barbara and the chick are doing well in a private setting away from their normal exhibit. Once the chick gets larger, Taylor said, the zoo will reintroduce the crane family to the exhibit.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.