Bird Bachelorette: The Crane Who Has a Man As Her Mate For Life

Like many birds, cranes mate for life. There’s just one thing different when it comes to the mate chosen by a white-naped crane named Walnut: She fell in love with her zookeeper at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Zookeeper Chris Crowe took care of Walnut every day, five days a week. She didn’t like him initially, pecking at his feet and legs to show her displeasure. Over time, she came to be fond of Crowe, and before long they were inseparable. When it fell to Crowe to artificially inseminate Walnut, things took a strange turn. After helping to facilitate the birth of Walnut’s seven chicks, she latched onto him as her mate for life. Although Crowe and Walnut have a strong social bond, that isn’t the case with most humans. When other zookeepers approach, Walnut lets them know that she’s spoken for. Despite his commitment to Walnut, Crowe is still human and needs breaks for himself from time to time. He says that when he goes away for days at a time, he does think she wonders where he is. Crowe says he does feel responsible for her. “Cranes mate for life, so I joke that it gives me job security. But it would be hard for me to leave, too. As long as she’s here I’ll be the one taking care of her.”