20 Year Member
- Aug 20, 2000
Smithsonian’s experts really do have some of the most curious specialties, which will be highlighted in an occasional “behind-the-scenes” series Strange and Curious Smithsonian Jobs. To kick things off, meet two scientists who study birds in unexpected ways.
About 70 miles from the Mall as the crow flies, a bird keeper at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, has a most unusual story. It begins in 2004 when Chris Crowe met Walnut, a white-naped crane. Walnut was a very aggressive 23-year-old female who had never produced any chicks of her own. Attempts at mating her with males of her species had ended badly (she killed two of them). This trait is particularly unfortunate because the cranes are endangered. Walnut was brought to SCBI because of their successful artificial insemination program for animals unable to reproduce on their own. Walnut bonded so well with Chris that he was able to train her to accept artificial insemination without any physical restraint. And happily, Walnut became a mom, and then a grandma crane.
Walnut’s lack of tolerance of other cranes means she lives alone, but she enjoys visits from her “mate,” Chris. And because cranes can live to be 60 in captivity, Crowe can count on some very unconventional job security.
1) walnut had so much human interaction that it refused to see itself as a crane
2) walnut murdered any male cranes they paired with it
3) walnut fell in love with Chris Crowe
4) Chris has to be with walnut for another 25 years