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What is special about the way that these birds protect themselves when threatened?

Answer:

If you have ever seen the "The Karate Kid" movie, you should be able to picture how the crane deals with threats. They spread their wings to stabilize themselves, and then kick with their feet.

Interestingly, while the "Crane Kick" pose that the Karate Kid uses is not really a Karate technique, it is a very good representation of how cranes kick.

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