Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Artificially incubate and hand-rear cranes in captivity

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

A replicated and controlled study and a small study, both from the USA, found that hand-reared birds showed normal reproductive behaviour and higher survival than parent-reared birds.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. In order to test hand-rearing techniques for use with whooping cranes Grus americana, a small study in the USA in 1992-3 (Duan & Bookhout 1997) investigated the behaviour of hand-reared male greater sandhill cranes G. canadensis tabida after release and found that they exhibited normal reproductive behaviour. All six paired with females in 1992 (none nested); four pairs nested in 1993, with one nest flooding but the others producing one or two eggs each. The hand-reared males incubated the eggs and three hatched (the remaining nest with two eggs was abandoned following the researchers’ visit), although none of the chicks survived more than a week. The authors conclude that reproductive behaviour is not affected by hand-rearing, which consisted of ‘isolation rearing’ – with the birds not given any access to humans, but instead reared by puppets heads (to avoid imprinting on human carers, see ‘Use puppets to increase the survival or growth of hand-reared chicks’ for studies on this intervention).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in a breeding centre in Mississippi, USA, between 1989 and 1996 (Ellis et al. 2000) found that first-year survival of captive-bred, hand-reared Mississippi sandhill cranes Grus canadensis pulla was higher than for captive-bred, parent-reared birds (approximately 85% survival for 56 hand-reared birds vs. 77% for 76 parent-reared birds). Hand-reared birds were reared with mounts of brooding adults and heat lamps, and were taught to feed by costumed humans with mounts of crane (see ‘Use puppets to increase the survival or growth of hand-reared chicks’ for more information). Details of the releases are discussed in ‘Release captive-bred individuals’.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust