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Conclusions: Although the general pattern of avian physiology applies to cranes, we have identified many physiological mechanisms (e.g., effects of disturbance) that need further study. Studies with cranes are expensive compared to those done with domestic fowl because of the crane's larger size, low reproductive rate, and delayed sexual maturity. To summarize, the crane reproductive system is composed of physiological and anatomical elements whose function is controlled by an integrated neural-endocrine system. Males generally produce semen at a younger age than when females lay eggs. Eggs are laid in clutches of two (1 to 3), and females will lay additional clutches if the preceding clutches are removed. Both sexes build nests and incubate the eggs. Molt begins during incubation and body molt may be completed annually in breeding pairs. However, remiges are replaced sequentially over 2 to 3 years, or abruptly every 2 to 3 years in other species. Most immature birds replace their juvenal remiges over a 2 to 3 year period. Stress interferes with reproduction in cranes by reducing egg production or terminating the reproductive effort. In other birds, stress elevates corticosterone levels and decreases LHRH release. We know little about the physiological response of cranes to stress.
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National Biological Service and International Crane Foundation