Pensthorpe Celebrates the Arrival of Dennis the Eurasian Crane’s First Chick!

Pensthorpe Natural Park is thrilled to announce the hatching of a chick by our beloved Eurasian crane, Dennis, and his mate. After several years of laying infertile eggs, this marks a joyous milestone for Dennis and his partner, making them proud parents at last.

Image courtesy of Paul Raddon

A Remarkable Journey

Dennis has a unique and inspiring backstory. He began his life as an egg in Germany and was brought to the UK as part of the inaugural year of the Great Crane Project. This ambitious five-year conservation initiative, a collaboration between Pensthorpe, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), and the RSPB, aimed to reintroduce Eurasian cranes to the Somerset Levels. Over the years, 94 cranes were successfully released into the wild.

In 2010, Dennis was puppet-reared alongside other crane chicks for release. However, he exhibited behaviours that indicated he would struggle to survive in the wild. Upon closer observation, our team discovered Dennis had developed cataracts in both eyes, explaining his unusual behaviour. Ground-breaking surgery was performed to remove the cataracts, though replacing the lens was not possible, resulting in impaired depth perception. Despite this, Dennis adapted well and formed a strong bond with a female crane, affectionately known as Mrs. Dennis.

Eurasian Crane at Pensthorpe Natural Park. Photo : Steve Adams

A Foster Father’s Triumph

For the past three years, Dennis and Mrs. Dennis have built nests and laid eggs, although none were fertile. This year, an exciting opportunity arose through a collaboration with WWT Washington Centre and Watatunga. WWT Washington had an egg they were unable to hatch, and Watatunga, eager to expand their Eurasian crane flock, sought assistance. Pensthorpe stepped in, offering Dennis and Mrs. Dennis the chance to foster the egg.

“After carefully transporting the egg in a portable incubator, we swapped it with the infertile eggs Dennis had been incubating. To our delight, the egg hatched!” said Chrissie Kelley, Head of Species Management at Pensthorpe.

Dennis’s paternal instincts have shone brightly since the chick’s arrival. Despite his vision impairment, he has dedicated himself to guiding, nurturing, and feeding the chick, demonstrating remarkable perseverance and adaptability. Initially unsure, Mrs. Dennis has now embraced parenthood, with both parents working together to care for their chick, affectionately named Dennis Junior, or DJ for short by our staff.

Image courtesy of Ben Andrews along with the featured image for this article

Chrissie Kelley shared, “Dennis has done an extraordinary job. Watching him care for DJ, even with his unique challenges, is a testament to his dedication and resilience. It’s heart-warming to see the bond they share and the love and protection both parents provide.”

Visitors to Pensthorpe can witness this incredible family dynamic first-hand. Dennis and Mrs. Dennis spend their days foraging for insects and providing shelter and shade for DJ. It is particularly endearing to see the chick nestled on Dennis’s back, partially tucked under his wing—a sight that underscores Dennis’s role as a fantastic foster dad.

You can see Dennis, Mrs Dennis and DJ at Pensthorpe now.  Book tickets to visit Pensthorpe:

 To find out more about Pensthorpe Conservation Trust please visit : and to find out more about The Great Crane Project please visit