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Holding off a crane using a soft broom. Click here for full-page view with caption. Safety goggles in box. Click here for full-page view with caption Holding off crane with a broom. Click here for full-page view with caption Holding ofcranes with brooms. Click here for full-page view with caption. Holding a crane chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Holding a crane.  Click here for full-page view with caption. Holding a crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane standing on weighing sacle. Click here for full-page view with caption Cranes hooded during transfer between ens. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crain being restrained. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Introduction and General Information

When birds are to be caught, handled and moved, it is important that potential problems are considered beforehand, to minimize the risk of injury to the birds and to the people involved.
Waterfowl Consideration
  • Waterfowl are not generally considered "dangerous", however they may use their bill, feet and wings in defence.
  • Improper handling of waterfowl risks traumatic injuries.
Crane Consideration
  • Physical restraint can be used for cranes; (P2.1986.w4) care must be taken to avoid the legs, neck or wings being injured when cranes are caught and handled. (B115.2.w7)
  • Cranes can be aggressive; they have a long, pointed bill and very sharp toenails which can slice skin or clothing. (B197.9.w9) Care must be taken to avoid handlers being injured by the crane. Cranes will attach by stabbing with the bill, raking with their claws and striking with their wings. (B115.2.w7)
    • Cranes will aim accurately for the eyes. (B31)
    • A stab from a crane's bill can blind a person. There are anecdotal reports of serious human injuries and even one anecdotal report of a human fatality from injury by a crane's bill. (B94, B115.2.w7)
    • Safety glasses/goggles should be worn when catching and handling adult cranes. (B197.9.w9)
  • Oral sedation is appropriate for catching free-living cranes in some circumstances. (P87.9.w5)
Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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  • Catching of birds may be facilitated by designing feeding, perching or roosting areas to be easily closed off while they are in use by the birds; this is particularly important when birds are kept in large areas.
  • Various sizes of nets are useful for catching a wide variety of bird species. Net mesh size should be sufficiently small to minimize the risk of entanglement; thin cloth may be preferable to mesh for very small birds. A net with a padded rim is useful particularly with smaller birds to reduce the risk of injury if the bird is caught between the rim and a solid object.
  • A piece of cloth of appropriate size, such as a towel, may be dropped over a bird which is on the ground and may also be used in the capture of birds which are in a box on cage.
  • The use of gloves may be appropriate with some species such as raptors. However, the loss of sensitivity associated with gloves must be remembered. In particular, the use of gloves should be avoided when handling small birds.
  • When possible, birds may be driven or lured into a smaller space for catching. The safety porch of an aviary may be used for this purpose: with the outer door carefully locked and the inner door opened, one or several birds are encouraged to enter the safety porch, after which a person with a net and a cage, as appropriate, carefully slips into the area to catch the birds. It is likely to be easier to drive birds into a safety porch if this is sited in a corner of the aviary, so that the birds may be driven along one side of the netting.
  • A safety porch may also be used to catch an escaped bird. In this case the inner door is secured and the outer door left open, with food and water placed inside the safety porch. An observer watches from an unobtrusive vantage point and waits to close the door once the bird is inside. Extra care must be employed to ensure the bird does not escape back out of the outer door if this must be opened to allow someone inside to open the inner door.
  • In large open enclosures, when catching birds which are unable to fly (e.g. moulting, pinioned, naturally flightless), it may be possible to herd the birds into a smaller area such as a corner temporarily blocked off by netting, prior to catching.
  • Catching fully flighted birds in very large aviaries may be extremely difficult. Consideration should be given to designing the aviary in such a way that birds can easily be caught by being trapped in feeding or roosting areas.

(B36.4.w4, B105.16.w3, B123, V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration
  • Catching waterfowl on a lake may require several people, on land and in boats (B16.19.w1). N.B. catching wild waterfowl, particularly diving ducks, on water, is extremely difficult.
  • A long-handled deep net is useful for catching waterfowl (B40, B108). The size of net and mesh should be matched to the size of the bird being caught. A padded rim may reduce the risk of injury if a bird is caught under the rim of the net, but may also become waterlogged and heavy (V.w5).
  • A large piece of cloth, such as a large towel or a coat, may also be dropped over the bird if it is on land (V.w5).
  • Swans and geese may be caught using a swan hook to grasp the neck, quickly followed by grasping the base of the wings, then holding the body with wings folded. However, birds may be wary of poles and avoid them. It is also possible to catch a goose or swan in a similar manner by hand, with one hand grasping the neck just behind the head, and the second hand grasping the base of one or both wings, prior to gathering the wings up with the body.
  • A catching cage may be constructed in an enclosure, with a funnel entrance and food inside as bait. This may be particularly useful for catching diving ducks (B108). Catching cages may also be used for catching wild birds for ringing (B122).
  • Traditionally, a "decoy" may be used. A decoy is a curving "pipe" of water, covered with netting held up by semi-circular pipes, leading from a pond. The pipe tapers down from a wide tall entrance and traditionally several pipes would be built around one pond, so that whichever pipe lead best into the wind could be used. Waterfowl may be enticed into the pipe using food, or utilizing resident ducks such as call ducks (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus - Domestic duck), or a small trained dog, making use of the tendency of waterfowl, particularly dabbling ducks, on water to swim towards such a potential predator. A series of screens alongside the pipe hide the decoy-man from the birds on the main area of water, but allow him to be seen by the ducks in the pipe if he wishes. It is therefore possible, once the birds have entered the pipe, to drive them further along it without disturbing birds still on the pond. Originally designed to catch ducks for eating, decoys have been used more recently to catch waterfowl for banding (B122).
  • Catching waterfowl by driving them into funnels may be employed particularly during the flightless period of the moult (P12.10).
  • Cannon nets are also used to catch wild waterfowl for ringing, or during disease investigation & control operations (B36.4.w4, B122).
  • For catching oiled seabirds such as scoters (Melanitta spp.), one method which has been found useful is to catch the birds on shore just before dawn at low tide. This reduces the chance of the ducks detecting the catchers and increases the distance the birds must move to reach the water where they can escape. The catchers preferably approach the birds from the west so that they are hidden as much as possible and have an increased opportunity to spot the birds against the lightening sky. One person walks along the water's edge, the other at the high tide mark. When a bird is spotted it may be possible to approach and grab it, sometimes assisted by momentarily dazzling the bird with a torch (flashlight), or if the approach of the person at high tide "flushes" the bird, it may be caught by the other person before it reaches the water. Catching with a towel or a landing net was suggested (P14.5.w6).
  • An alternative to catching and holding for moving some large aggressive species (e.g. Cereopsis novaehollandiae - Cape Barren goose) short distances is to use "kick-boards" - wooden boards on handles, kept between the person and the bird and used to usher it in the required direction (N1.99.w1).
Crane Consideration Human safety
  • Always wear safety glasses/goggles when catching large or aggressive cranes. (B115.2.w7, B197.9.w9, B521.19.2.w19b)
    • If appropriate eye protection is worn, then all personnel involved in the capture can concentrate on the crane, without attention being split for safety reasons. (V.w5)
    • Consider keeping one or two pairs of safety glasses in a box near the entrance to crane pens - either out of reach of the public (e.g. in a safety porch) or if necessary locked (with all authorised personnel having a key or numeric code to the lock), so that these can be obtained quickly in the event of an emergency. (V.w5)
  • If necessary, an aggressive crane can be fended off using a soft broom or a T-stick (broom handle with a crosspiece attached to one end) placed against the crane's chest. (B115.2.w7)
    • Some cranes react aggressively towards a broom and an alternative device must be found for fending off such individuals - a plastic dustbin led has been used successfully with at least one crane. (V.w5)
  • Long sleeves and long trousers will protect the arms and legs from claws and provide some protection if the crane grabs hold of an arm. (V.w5)
  • Protective trousers such as chaps may be worn e.g. for artificial insemination. (B115.2.w7)

Catching adult and sub-adult cranes

  • Using two to four people, slowly approach the crane, keeping your arms outstretched, herding the crane towards a capture corner of the pen; this should be lined with soft material such as tennis safety netting. (B115.2.w7, B197.9.w9)
    • Keep the arms up as well as out for cranes which tend to jump; be prepared to grab a wing as the crane tries to jump over/past you. (B115.2.w7)
    • Once the crane is in the corner, move quickly in to grab it before it escapes past you. (B115.2.w7)
    • If the crane enters a shed, catch it quickly before it injures itself against the walls or roof. (B115.2.w7)
    • The crane can be caught initially by the bustle (long trailing tertiary wing feathers), both wings at the humeri, or one wing and the neck. (B115.2.w7)
      • Take hold of the secondary and tertial flight feathers of the wings with one hand, restraining the wings. (B197.9.w9)
    • Note: parent-reared and wind-caught cranes generally are more difficult to catch than are hand-reared cranes, and more handlers may be needed. (B115.2.w7)
      • With some hand-reared cranes a single person can approach close enough to catch the crane. (B115.2.w7)
      • With very aggressive hand-reared cranes a two-person team may be needed, one to distract the bird, the other to get hold of it. (B115.2.w7)
    • Note: Cranes which are caught regularly, e.g. for artificial insemination, may be trained to go towards a given corner of the pen whenever they are herded in a certain way. (B115.2.w7)
    • AVOID catching and transporting cranes in very hot weather as stress of capture/transport plus overheating can be fatal. (B521.19.2.w19b)


  • For cranes which peck at the handler once caught, or thrash around rather than relaxing, a hood may be used. This tube-shaped piece of cloth can be slipped onto the head over the bill and fastened behind the head. Make sure the nares are not covered. Preferably, the hood should have a rigid plastic or paper disk inside it which fits over the crown of the head and keeps the fabric of the hood away from the eyes, preventing abrasion. (B115.2.w7)

Catching of wild cranes

Wild cranes can be captured with rocket nets. (P87.1.w5, P91.1987.w7)

  • This can be effective and safe if carried out properly. In a study of greater sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis tabida, at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan, USA, nets were usually discharged at small groups of cranes (2 - 5 birds), when cranes had their heads down at bait piles 2.5 - 3m from the front of the net. In 65 shots, an average of 2.9 cranes were caught per shot. Many cranes returned to bait piles after having been caught, indicating this was not a seriously aversive experience. (P91.1987.w7)
    • One crane died post-release, out of 186 captures and recaptures. Snag lines on nets were found to be a hazard (one crane suffered a dislocated wing due to being caught in a snag line) and should be removed from nets. (P91.1987.w7)
    • An angle of 24.5 - 29.5 degrees was determined to be optimum for minimal escape of targeted cranes without compromising crane safety. (P91.1987.w7)
    • A minimum distance of 2.5 metres from the front of the camouflaged net to the cranes, and triggering the net when the cranes had their heads down were considered to maximise crane safety. (P91.1987.w7)
    • Risks are higher when rocket nets are triggered towards larger groups of cranes and higher mortalities have been reported in such circumstances. (P91.1987.w7)
    • The method depends on cranes making use of bait provided; this limits the usefulness of this type of rocket-netting when cranes are not attracted to bait, for example when other foods are plentiful. (P91.1987.w7)
  • Rocket netting used on larger groups of cranes was found to cause traumatic injuries when cranes became airborne before being tangled by the net, and were rapidly brought back to the ground by the net. A few were injured directly by rockets or the leading edge of the net. Other birds died in the days following capture but there was no obvious relationship with e.g. time or wind speed and mortality rates. (P87.3.w5)

Wild cranes can also be captured using oral sedation. See section below: Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint Issues for Handling, and Alphachloralose Sedation of Cranes

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Holding & Carrying

  • Methods used for holding and carrying birds vary greatly depending on the bird species involved. There are also some differences depending on whether the bird is wild or tame and its individual temperament. Control of the head, limbs and body must be considered.
  • It is important to consider both the potential health risks both for the bird and the person holding it.
  • N.B. Long-legged birds should be carried with the legs held out behind the bird, held at the hocks and with one or more fingers between the legs to ensure they do not rub against one another. After the legs have been extended it may be possible to fold them gently under the body, but this should not be forced and they should not be kept folded for long periods of time: long legged birds held with the legs folded for prolonged periods may never be able to stand up again and have to be euthanased.
  • Risks to the bird:
  • Holding the body too tightly - interference with respiration
  • Carrying by the wings - brachial paralysis, wing fracture
  • Wings allowed to flap or strain excessively - wing fracture, feather damage, capture myopathy
  • Legs - fracture, capture myopathy, particular problems of long-legged birds, potential for self-injury (e.g. ripping neck open with claws while struggling).
  • Risks to the holder:
  • Biting - particularly parrots, although many species can give a nasty pinch.
  • Legs - scratching, penetration of claws (particularly raptors), kicking - ratites.
  • Wings - particularly large birds such as geese and swans. Note some species have a carpal spur or spurs on the wings.
  • N.B. Long-billed species such as herons, rails etc. may stab with their bill and this should be treated with respect. A ball of bandage, cork or other blunt object may be taped over the tip of the bill to reduce the potential for injury. Goggles may be worn to protect the eyes when catching and holding long-billed birds.


Waterfowl Consideration
  • Waterfowl are not generally difficult to hold or carry, although they may peck, scratch and hit with their wings. The mergansers (sawbills) have serrated bills which may rip skin and tree-nesting species such as perching ducks commonly have long toe nails. In general the risk to the handler from the wings is greater with the larger species of geese and swans, although the presence of carpal spurs (e.g. on the spur-winged goose) may increase the hazard to the handler.
  • Swans and geese may be safely carried tucked under one arm, with the head facing backwards and the legs supported by the person's hands. It is important to ensure the wings are safely restrained, while keeping the head behind the carrier reduces the risk of damage to tender areas of the handler, particularly . Large ducks may be carried in a similar manner. Smaller ducks may be carried with both hands grasping around the body, holding the wings and pinning the legs backwards; with very small ducks this may also be possible with one hand. Very small ducks may be carried by holding the base of the wings, with a finger kept between the wings, although temporary or permanent brachial paralysis has been reported following the use of this method for heavier species (see: Brachial Paralysis).
  • Swan bags have been designed specifically for holding swans and are simple to use, with Velcro closures. A pillowcase with one corner cut off may be used in a similar manner, with the swan's head and neck brought out of the pillowcase through the corner hole and the rest of the case drawn over the body and tied shut.

(B10.26.w3, B11.33.w1, B13.46.w1, B16.19.w1, B123, V.w5 )

Crane Consideration

Holding a crane chick. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Holding a crane.  Click here for full-page view with caption. Holding a crane. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Crane chicks
  • Crane chicks are fragile and must be handled carefully to avoid injuries such as lacerations, limb damage and (in the very young) yolk sac rupture. (B115.5.w3)
  • Crane chicks are stressed by handling; some handling is needed e.g. for health and growth evaluations, but consideration should be given as to whether a procedure requiring handling is necessary. (B115.5.w3)
  • Older chicks can be handled much like adults, but with extra care. (B115.2.w7)
    • When handling older chicks additional care is required to ensure the developing feathers are not damaged.
  • Do not fold the legs of young cranes under the body.
  • Minimise the length of time for which chicks are restrained; even a few minutes is stressful. (B115.2.w7)

Scoop method

  • Young chicks are best picked up by the "scoop" method, with the hand brought up the the crane's body from in front or behind, one or two fingers between the crane's legs, so that its body lies in the palm of the hand, the legs dangling between the fingers/over the sides of the hand, while the other hand gently covers the chick's back to make sure it cannot jump off the hand.
    • Take care that the unrestrained legs cannot claw at the chick's own face or neck. (B115.5.w3)
  • When releasing the chick, lower it carefully, continuing to support its body until its own legs are supporting it properly, and take particular care that it does not fall backwards. A chick on its back flails with its legs and may injure its own eyes or neck. (B115.5.w3)

Bouquet method

  • The bouquet method is suitable for chicks over ten days of age. (B115.5.w3)
  • The handler places one hand under/round the birds chest/keel, supporting its weight in that hand, while the other hand gently restrains the chicks legs, with one or two fingers keeping the legs apart. The chick's legs are out behind the chick so it cannot claw itself. (B115.5.w3)
    • Take care that the chick's legs are not crossed, twisted or allows to rub together. (B115.5.w3)
    • The chick may be held with its body horizontal, or in a more upright position. (B115.5.w3)

Football carry

  • This is suitable for older chicks (six weeks onwards). (B115.5.w3)
  • As with a small adult crane, the chick's body is tucked close by the handler's side, held by the handler's forearm while the hand of the same arm holds the legs (at least one finger between the legs). (B115.5.w3)
Adult cranes

As soon as possible after the crate is caught (see above), restrain the wings and the legs. (B115.2.w7)

  • Once the wings are restrained by holding the secondary and tertial flight feathers of the wings with one hand, keeping the crane's head pointed to the rear of the handler, move the other arm over the cranes body and down to grasp the legs at/just above the hocks. Keep one or two fingers between the legs so the hocks cannot rub on one another. Lift the crane so it is tucked under your arm. Once your upper arm is restraining the wings, let go of the feathers with your other hand and use it to hold the crane's head behind you or use this hand to grasp the hocks and the hand which is over the crane to support the sternum. (B197.9.w9)
  • Pull the crane's body against your own body with one arm, keeping your head turned away to avoid injuries to your face. (B115.2.w7)
  • Control the head by holding the upper neck, making sure not to restrict the airway; do not cover the nares (external nostrils). (B115.2.w7)
  • If the crane is known to peck at people, a second person should restrain the head. (B115.2.w7)
  • With one arm around the crane's body and wings, the other hand can hold the legs just above the hocks. (B115.2.w7)
    • Keep one finger between the bird's hocks to make sure the hocks can't rub against one another. (B115.2.w7)
    • Make sure the legs cannot come into contact with either the holder or the crane's own neck. (B115.2.w7)
  • Caution regarding folding the crane's legs:
    • Holding the crane with its legs folded helps reduce the risk of injury to crane or people from flailing legs (B115.2.w7) and can allow a single person to carry a crane and even free up one hand to e.g. open doors. (V.w5) However:
    • There is a risk of slipped tendons, leg fractures (in chicks/juveniles - see Long bone Fractures in Cranes) and Capture Myopathy associated with folding the legs. (B115.2.w7)
    • Never force a crane's legs folded. (B115.2.w7)
      • If it is necessary to fold the legs, do not force them to fold, but wait until the crane allows them to be folded. (B115.2.w7)
    • For juveniles: do NOT fold the legs as this has been associated with Patellar Ligament Rupture / Tibitarsal Crest Fractures in Cranes which is often ultimately fatal. (P504.2001.w8)
    • Never keep the legs folded for more than 30 minutes. (B115.2.w7)
    • Never support the crane's weight on its folded legs. (B115.2.w7)
  • Sitting over the crane can be used for examination of the head and dorsum and for force feeding: with the crane's legs folded, place it on the ground and kneel astride it, but do not place your body weight onto the crane. If the crane tries to rise, use your hands to restrain it. (B115.2.w7)
  • If a crane has been caught and is e.g. waiting for a physical examination for several minutes, place it into a crate. (B115.2.w7)
  • Keeping hold of the body and wings, crouch as necessary and allow the crane's legs to touch the ground. Once the legs have been released, keep hold of the bustle or one wing briefly to stabilise the crane while it gets its balance. (B115.2.w7)
    • If the individual crane tends to thrash about when released, let go quickly; the risk of injury while unbalanced is less than that due to thrashing about. (B115.2.w7)
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Transport Crates

  • Boxes or crates for transport should be suitable in size and strength of construction for the species being transported.
  • If birds are to be transported by air it is important to consult the International Animal Transport Association (IATA) regulations on crates (B56).
  • N.B. Sufficient height should be provided for long-legged birds to stand upright: Long legged-birds (e.g. herons, cranes, flamingoes) transported sitting down (i.e. legs folded) for any length of time may never stand up again and have to be euthanased.
  • A soft top e.g. of sacking, or a false ceiling of sacking a short distance (a few cm) below the rigid top of the crate may be useful to avoid trauma to the bird's head during transport.
  • Except in the case of very short journeys, provision must be made for feeding and watering.
Waterfowl Consideration
  • Crates should be designed to keep waterfowl clean and dry during transport (B7).
  • Hay and straw have frequently been used as bedding materials for transporting waterfowl. However, there is a risk of aspergillosis (Aspergillosis in Birds) from mouldy straw or hay, and hay may become tangled around the legs. Wood shavings carry less risk of aspergillosis, but fine shavings/ sawdust may be kicked up in transport, particularly if the bird is nervous and e.g. flapping its wings, and may irritate the eyes and respiratory tract. Shredded paper is clean, mould-free and breaks easily if wrapped around the legs. Additionally, it is easy to inspect for blood staining and for noting any abnormal droppings.
  • Waterfowl which have been in crates for several days may have soiled feathers; this interferes with waterproofing and the birds may become wet when let out onto water, and drown (Drowning) or die from chilling (Chilling / Hypothermia). Such birds must be rescued and dried, and gradually reintroduced to water. (B7)
  • For short journeys (e.g. a few hours in a car), stout cardboard boxes are often used. The size and temperament of the birds should be considered before using cardboard boxes rather than wooden crates or plastic sky-kennel type boxes for transporting waterfowl. Even for short journeys, some bedding such as shredded paper is advisable to reduce the risk of soiling (N1.99.w1).
  • N.B. For long journeys, crates should be designed to allow feeding and watering.
  • If birds are to be transported by air it is important to consult the the International Animal Transport Association (IATA) regulations on crates suitable for waterfowl. (B56)
Crane Consideration
  • Move cranes as little as possible. (B115.2.w7)
  • It may be possible to herd cranes from one pen into an adjacent pen. (B115.2.w7)
  • For moves of up to about 200 m, hand carry the crane to its new location. (B115.2.w7)
  • For local moves longer than about 200 m, hand carry the crane into a vehicle and keep it held manually during the journey. (B115.2.w7)
    • Place a hood (see above: Catching) on the head of nervous or aggressive individuals. (B115.2.w7)
  • For longer distance moves, the crane will need to be placed in a crate. (B115.2.w7)
  • It is important to ensure that the crate is fastened securely to the side of the vehicle to ensure it cannot fall over or, in an open vehicle, blow off the truck. (B115.2.w7)
  • Avoid sudden turns, bumps and abrupt changes of speed when driving a vehicle to transport cranes. (B115.2.w7)
  • During road transport in hot weather, check the crane at least hourly and offer water during some of the checks, in a 6 cm-deep dish, placed just inside the crate for a few minutes. (B115.2.w7)


Crate size

Crate construction

  • Floor: 0.5 - 0.75 inch (1.3 - 2.0 cm) plywood. (B115.2.w7)
    • Fasten grippable material such as indoor-outdoor carpet securely to the inside of the floor to give a non-slip surface for the crane to stand on. (B115.2.w7)
    • A shavings layer 5 cm (two inches) thick should be placed on the floor to absorb droppings. (B115.2.w7)
  • Sides, including door, 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) plywood, reinforced along the edges with 2 x 4 cm wood strips. (B115.2.w7)
  • The door, on one of the narrow ends, should slide up and down in a narrow track. There should be a fastening system on the top of the door allowing it to be locked shut. (B115.2.w7)
    • The groove for the sliding door should be as narrow as possible t ensure the crane cannot get its toenails caught in the groove. (B115.2.w7)
  • On both sides, near the top, attach carrying handles of 2 x 2 cm strips of wood. (B115.2.w7)
  • Top: plywood or other strong material, e.g. mesh hardware cloth sandwiched between two layers of tennis court wind-netting, to protect the crane's head, allow ventilation, and restrict view (thereby reducing disturbance). (B115.2.w7)
  • Provide rows of holes, 2-3 cm diameter, near the top of the crate sides, for ventilation. (B115.2.w7)
    • These should be covered with mesh to remove the risk of the crane poking its bill through a hole and injuring it. (B115.2.w7)
  • Additional ventilation can be provided using a "window" over 1/3-1/2 of the back of the crate constructed of mesh hardware cloth sandwiched between two layers of tennis court wind-netting. (B115.2.w7)
  • An alternative top can be constructed from strong cloth, with some "give", or the top may be solid (with or without ventilation holes) but a false top of strong cloth can be stretched about one inch below this. N.B. Not suitable for e.g. IATA travel or any other circumstances where it important to minimise the crate height or if there is any risk that another object may be placed on top of the crate (e.g. if it is not being accompanied by personnel experienced with animals). (V.w5)
  • Make sure all inner surfaces are free of protrusions and rough edges. (B115.2.w7)

Crane preparation

  • To minimise the risk of injuries during transport, the wings can be brailed (bound so they cannot be opened - see Brailing) and pads taped over the carpi. (B115.2.w7)

Feeding and watering

  • Do not install a dish as a permanent part of the crate; the bird could injure its feet, legs, head or neck on this, or break blood feathers on it. (B115.2.w7)
  • Feeding is not required for adult cranes travelling for up to two days. (B115.2.w7)
  • At cold/moderate temperatures, offer water after one day of travel: pace a familiar water dish just inside the crate for half an hour. (B115.2.w7)
  • At higher temperatures, water is needed more frequently. During hot weather journeys by surface transport, offer water during some of the hourly checks, in a 6 cm-deep dish, placed just inside the crate for a few minutes. (B115.2.w7)


  • Label with "LIVE BIRD" on at least two sides.
  • On all four sides label "THIS SIDE UP".
  • Also label with "DO NOT TIP" and "DO NOT FEED OR WATER THIS BIRD"

For air travel

  • Follow IATA regulations for crate design and shipping. (B115.2.w7)
  • Crates should be constructed to minimize the external dimensions (most airlines will not accept a crate more than 105 cm high) while maintaining adequate internal size, and structural strength. (B115.2.w7)
  • If shipping a crate more than 80 cm high, check beforehand with the airline to ensure thatthe oxygenated cargo hold of the plane has a door sufficiently large to allow the crate through.
  • Make sure the crate is labelled correctly and that airline personnel are properly instructed to hold the crate upright, including when moving it into the cargo hold. (B115.2.w7)
  • Avoid airline shipments in temperatures above 21 C (70 F) or below -1 C (30F). (B115.2.w7)
  • Make allowances for unforeseen events which may change flight schedules. (B115.2.w7)

Transport of chicks

  • Chicks under four months of age should be transported only for special purposes, and should be accompanied by a caretaker. (B115.2.w7)
  • Young cranes need at least one good feed a day and need water every few hours. (B115.2.w7)
  • Young cranes are more likely to injure their legs or wings during transport; extra floor padding should be provided. (B115.2.w7)
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Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint Issues for Handling

See general information in the Treatment and/or Control - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint
Waterfowl Consideration For more detailed specific waterfowl information on General Anaesthesia see the section Treatment and/or Control - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint.

Oral sedatives:

  • In certain circumstances sedation with an orally absorbed drug may be an appropriate means of waterfowl capture. This method may be used to capture an individual bird (e.g. one duck in a park situation), using a bait which can be targeted at that individual, such as a piece of bread, or a group of waterfowl, for example by using baited grain.
  • In using oral bait to sedate/anaesthetize waterfowl for capture it is particularly important to ensure that the bird(s) are watched closely with rapid intervention to prevent drowning or attack by other individuals. This method must be used with extreme caution if the possibility exists that the birds may fly away from the site between ingestion of the drug and it having its effect.
  • Other potential hazards include a lack of control over the amount of drug consumed by each individual, variability in the responses of different individuals to a given dose (possible effects of age, sex, health status and degree of stress), and effects on non-target species consuming the bait.
  • Additionally, there is little data on the effects of orally administered immobilizing agents on behaviour, physiology and survival.
  • The possibility of residues must also be considered if birds may be used for human consumption.

(see: Oral Sedation of Waterfowl)

(J2.8.w1, J4.161.w1, B36.4.w4, B123)

Crane Consideration
  • Alpha-chloralose has been used to capture free-living greater sandhill cranes - Grus canadensis tabida (Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane). Both morbidity (6%) and mortality (4%) were lower using this method than using most other methods for capturing sandhill cranes. Capture of both of a territorial pair was successful in 69% of attempts and capture of all members of a targeted social group was successful in 59% of cases, which is relatively high. In 7/12 cases of morbidity, Capture Myopathy was seen; three birds died, all males, while four were successfully rehabilitated. A lower sedation level was more likely to lead to capture myopathy. (P87.9.w5)
    • In another study, 3/56 greater sandhill cranes - Grus canadensis tabida (Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane) developed capture myopathy (two adults, one juvenile) and were successfully treated. (J312.21.w2)
    • Note: holding wild cranes overnight in a quiet pen in which they can be watched without disturbing them may be advantageous following capture and restraint, to detect effects of Capture Myopathy that might not be visible immediately, thereby reducing the risk of affected cranes being released prematurely and dying following release. (J312.21.w2)
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Husbandry Training

Many aspects of good husbandry, including shifting between on-show and off-show exhibits, weight monitoring, differential feeding in mixed species exhibits, treatment of injured individuals and administration of prophylactic medication, can be made easier and less stressful by the use of husbandry training.
Positive reinforcement training
  • Positive reinforcement training is based on giving pleasurable rewards for the desired behavioural response. It relies on the voluntary cooperation of the animal being trained, and it gives the animal choice: the animal chooses to cooperate (or not), rather than being made to comply with a procedure. (J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P20.1998.w11, )
  • The training allows desensitisation of the animal to frightening and even painful events, thereby reducing the stress associated with such events. (P20.1998.w11)
  • Note: maximum usefulness of positive reinforcement training requires "buy-in" from management, keeping staff and veterinary personnel. Initial stages can be very time consuming. However, the benefits in reduced stress (on animals and personnel), increased ease of basic husbandry (e.g. in trained shifting of animals) and improved health monitoring and care, can be considerable.

Uses of positive reinforcement training include:

  • Birds may be trained to enter holding areas for:
    • daily checking of the animals and provision of veterinary treatment;
    • allowing keepers to enter the enclosures of dangerous animals for cleaning and for provision of environmental enrichment (e.g. scattering or hiding food);
    • to enable separate feeding of different species in a mixed-species exhibit.
  • Positive reinforcement training increases the opportunity for general health monitoring, preventative medicine and reproductive monitoring. It may be used to allow physical examination, specimen collection and even treatment of animals without the need for physical or chemical restraint. (B439.16.w16, J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P20.1998.w11)
    • Training allows repeated weighing of animals in a stress-free manner.
    • An extremely useful application of training is to condition animals to voluntarily accept injections, thereby eliminating the need for either physical restraint or remote injection systems. (N19.1.w3, P20.1998.w11)
  • Birds may be trained to enter transport boxes to transfer them between enclosures or even between institutions.
  • It may be possible to carry out veterinary procedures without separating the animal from its social group, reducing disruption to the whole group and avoiding potential problems associated with reintroducing the individual back to the group following treatment.
  • Training can be used to modify problematic and potentially dangerous behaviours.
  • Positive reinforcement training can be used to address aggression in social groups, for example by simultaneously reinforcing dominant individuals for allowing subordinate individuals to be fed or receive attention, and reinforcing the subordinate individuals for being "brave" and feeding or accepting attention while in the presence of the dominant individuals. (J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3)
  • Note: Training sessions also give animals choice. (N19.1.w3, P82.7.w1)

(B439.16.w16, J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P3.2008a.w3, P20.1998.w11, P140.30.w1, V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration
  • Waterfowl can be trained for husbandry behaviours such as approaching the keeper, hand-feeding "stationing", crating (thus allowing transport) and standing on scales to enable stress-free weight determination. (N31.37.w2, N31.37.w3, N31.39.w1)
Crane Consideration

Crane standing on weighing sacle. Click here for full-page view with caption

Cranes can be trained for husbandry behaviours for example to enter a holding area, and to station on weighing scales.
  • A whooping crane was trained to stand on a platform scale to enable monitoring of body weight. (N31.35.w1)
  • A whooping crane was trained to enter a holding area into which he could be locked in on cold nights and during exhibit maintenance. (N31.35.w1)
  • Food treats were used for training a whooping crane; these had to be rotated frequently. (N31.35.w1)
  • Training was used successfully to encourage a wild-born male sandhill crane, which had been injured and could not be released, to tolerate keepers. The male was paired with a captive-bred female who was happy to approach. Initially the male would only take super mealworms if they were tossed by a keeper standing on the far side of the fence. With time, he progressed to taking them from just the other side of the fence, then at a distance without a fence, then from close to the keeper. The crane is now comfortable rather than stressed near keepers and quickly settles if handling has been needed. Additionally, this enables individual the cranes to be individually orally medicated, and training can progress to scale training, shifting etc. (N31.40.w1)
  • Targeting to a laser was used in training an aggressive male Balearica regulorum - Grey crowned-crane. Initially, this was used as an alternative target, encouraging pecking at the target (a green laser point) rather than being aggressive to the keepers. Later, other cues were used to train shifting behaviour (into the holding area. Using the laser enabled training to allow close approach, touching on the wings and back, and partial opening of the winds, enabling visual inspection. While training did not totally eliminate aggressive behaviour towards keepers it did minimize aggression directly affecting keepers carrying out their caretaking tasks, and aggression was noted to be continuing to decrease. (N31.39.w2)
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Authors & Referees

Authors Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

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