Feb 2, 2024 - News

RIP D.C.-area crane that went viral for falling in love with zookeeper

A close-up of a bird's head with a long beak and white and red markings.

Photo courtesy of Chris Crowe, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

A white-naped crane named Walnut — who lived at the Smithsonian's research campus in Front Royal, Va., and became famous for "falling in love" with her human zookeeper there — recently died of natural causes.

Why it matters: This is 100% a story that should be optioned by Netflix — cranes mate for life, and Walnut just so happened to "imprint" on a keeper named Chris Crowe (yes, Crowe).

Catch up fast: Crowe helped to breed the member of the vulnerable species by "courting" her, gifting her sticks and straw for building nests and dead mice (what every girl wants).

  • Walnut was also kind of a badass: She lived to 42, considered geriatric for this species. Before she met Crowe, she apparently had been known for murdering male cranes who tried to make passes at her.
  • And she had several babies — essential for the continuation of white-naped cranes.

RIP, Walnut — forever an icon.

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