Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Responses to Challenge Question #2: Why Not in Florida?

Surprising everyone, two of last year’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) whooping cranes were the first 2005 chicks to start their journey north. DAR chicks #527 and #528 started out from Tennessee. We asked: “Why weren't these chicks in Florida, like the other hatch year 2005 chicks?”

"The other hatch year chicks had gone to Florida with the plane. These chicks had been left in Wisconsin and they flew with older sandhill cranes to another place, maybe Tennessee. Now they are following those same cranes back and might end up in Wisconsin!"
Amanda C.
, Gr. 4: Ferrisburgh Central School, Ferrisburgh, VT

We add: Yes! The chicks did not know the route; they simply followed wild cranes that were heading south to a place THEY learned from THEIR parents. The DAR chicks won't have to follow any cranes back to Wisconsin because they'll likely go back the way they came. We'll see if they end up in Wisconsin--like they should!

"Jumblies (#527) and Poe (#528) both followed Sandhills to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee and don't know about Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida, so they spent the winter at Hiwassee where the Sandhills wintered. Jumblies got a little lost at one point, and had to be driven 28 miles east and released with Sandhills, but found the rest of the way to Hiwassee. Poe did not need a lift along the way, but she got very tired." Marcus F.

We add: Yes! You paid close attention to the facts in their life stories! We wish them luck on their migration home.

"These DAR chicks weren't in Florida, like the other hatch year 2005 chicks, because these chicks probably followed the sandhill cranes coming from Ontario, Canada down to Virginia. The DAR chicks coming from Wisconsin most likely stopped along with the sandhill cranes at Southern Ohio. The DAR chicks then followed the sandhill cranes to Virginia instead of going on to Florida."
Tripti, Joe, Pranav, Mansimrat: Iselin Middle School/7th grade

We add: Yes! They did indeed leave with sandhill cranes that were at their summer home in Wisconsin.Those birds could have been Wisconsin residents, but perhaps they came from Canada or other places. At stopovers, the DAR chicks were free to join up with any of the hundreds of sandhill cranes heading south for the winter.

"These chicks were probably heading south, met up with the sandhill cranes and may have thought they were part of the sandhill cranes also migrating south. These two chicks might have mistaken the sandhill cranes to be their leaders."
Vishal, Diego, Conor: Iselin Middle School/7th grade

We add: Yes! When these two chicks knew it was time to go, they NEEDED a leader because they had no parents to teach them the route on their first migration. Small numbers of whooping cranes often join large numbers of sandhill cranes during migration. Luckily, they are all headed south.


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