Exotic Gray Crane Continues Life at Large

By Lisa M. Krieger

San Jose Mercury News, January 7, 2007, pages 3B


Lisa M. Krieger / Mercury News

On the lam for more than a month, Los Altos Hills' vagabond East African gray crowned crane seems to be savoring a life of freedom.

The bird dines near a trap, but has refused to set foot in it. He's wary of open garages baited with bird food. And while he peers into windows and roosts on roofs, he flees when humans get too close.

"He's still here," said Hills resident Sandra Humphries, who sometimes sees the creature wander by Adobe Creek. "We call him Citizen Crane."

The tall and majestic crane— the national bird of Uganda— escaped while being moved into a new aviary last November.

A tall and majestic East African crowned crane
is still at large in Los Altos Hills for a month.

Since flying the coop, much has happened in his life. He lost his mate, who accompanied him but died days later. He settled into a new home in an abandoned apricot orchard. And he gained a large and devoted following of worried bird-lovers.

The crane has survived the Peninsula's winter wind and rains— at least so far.

Worried about his survival once weather turns harsher, Humphries and others have been feeding him cracked corn, cat food, bird seed and other delicacies in hopes of fattening him up. In his native Uganda, Wednesday's temperatures hit the balmy upper 70s.

Hills residents have also turned protective, cautioning would-be viewers that frightening the bird could stress and weaken it.

The exotic crane, with colorful plumage and a top-knot of stiff golden bristles, spends nights and rainy days in the shelter of high trees. During the day, he explores local pastures and orchards in this rustic corner of town.

He has struck up an amiable acquaintance with a local red-tailed hawk, as well as quail, jays and other native birds, observers say.

A curious creature, he has been seen peering through a kitchen window, only inches from the face of a curious house cat.

But a large cage— made from wire mesh, baited with bok choy, with a trapdoor that can be triggered by a yank on fishing line— stands empty.

He's approached it, but never entered. Neither has anything else.

"Not even raccoons are interested," Humphries said.

Contact Lisa M. Krieger at lkrieger@mercurynews.com
or (650) 688-7565.

2006 MercuryNews.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Original: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/16404173.htm

Earlier Story 1: Crowned Crane Graces Los Altos Hills (11-29-2006)

Earlier Story 2: Crane Loses Mate, But Owner Identified (11-30-2006)

Crowned Crane Photos