How fast they grow. The little fuzzy yellow chick from the spring, the chick that barely came up to mom and dad’s legs, is now a towering young crane, as big as its parents. From a distance, you can’t tell the three apart.
The only thing lacking now is the distinctive red patch on baby’s forehead. I don’t know what initiation the youngster must undergo to earn this badge of adulthood. Perhaps by next year, when the family comes back from Cuba or Florida after the winter, junior will have its adult papers.
Though junior can certainly fly, the family hangs about the wetland where the chick was hatched. They spend mornings out in the cow pasture in front of the house digging about in the grass with their powerful beaks. What they find to eat in the dirt and gravel I can’t imagine, but they sure enjoy themselves. Junior is not above begging treats from indulgent parents.
I know when they are there from their trilling cries as they chat together. Driver’s sharp enough to spot the brownish plumage in the field sometimes screech to a halt and sit watching. Or a camera will emerge. The cranes don’t even mind me climbing the fence and walking close, making me suspect they must have human friends when they vacation in the sunny south.
They certainly ignore the cattle that share the field and the hordes of Canada geese fattening themselves on new grass before migration. Even when deer show up, they carry on as usual.
This lucky chick will stick with mom and dad right up until mom gets ready lay eggs for a new season. Only then is junior forced to leave home and fend for itself, a rude shock no doubt. Not a fan of responsibilities, it may wait five or six years before finally starting a family of its own.
Meanwhile, it is the pampered child of two efficient parents who have managed to fend off predators and raise it to the hulking bird that could almost look after itself if it had to. Only why bother when mom and dad find the food and take it south for fun in the sun while blizzards blow up here.