Cranes Tell Their Story
13: 2 whooping cranes seen on migration over Ward County, North Dakota,
3 miles south of Makoti. Color-banded silver on the left and blue on
the right leg."
Wouldn't it be amazing to know "who" was seen in Makoti, North
Dakota? After all, each individual whooper has its own incredible life
Wally Jobman (retired, USFWS in Nebraska), you CAN "meet" a
migrating whooper! Wally sent us all the sighting records for one of
cranes. Scientists use this kind of raw data — carefully collected
observations and records — to piece together the stories of
cranes' lives. It takes a bit of detective work and a lot of curiosity
it out. It often results in more questions than answers. But that's
what science is all about! We're eager to give you the same challenge
and adventure in making sense of raw data. What kind of story will
piece together from Crane RwR-B's sighting data? Before you rush to
read the banding data,
here's more about the banding program and RwR-B:
Cracking the Code
Wally explains, "The whooping crane color-banding program was conducted
between 1977 and 1988. No birds have been banded since 1988. Therefore,
most of the banded birds have bands that are difficult to identify because
they're faded, broken, or missing. A lot of valuable information has been
collected from banded birds, such as whether the birds use the same sites
each migration, the stability of the pair bonds, and the establishment of
territories on the nesting and wintering areas.
bird whose sighting records you will study has been observed more often
than the other color-banded birds. It has been a very productive
banded as a chick at Wood Buffalo National Park prior to fledging. All
bands were made of plastic and placed above the bird's knee (tibio-tarsus
joint). RwR means red-white-red: the bird has a 3-inch wide red band with
white horizontal stripe
in the middle on its left leg. The letter B means the bird has a 3-inch
wide blue band on its right leg. At the time of this writing, the only
band remaining on this bird is a silver USFWS band on the right ankle.
Digging Into Data
How old is RwR-B? You'll find out when you read the banding data (link
at bottom of page). How long will it live and continue to breed? Wally
replies, "I would guess that 25 years is probably about the maximum
age for a wild bird, and I believe one bird in captivity lived to be
Cranes will likely be productive to the end of their lives."
for looking at the data:
into cooperative groups. Using a highlighter, mark the "highlights."
questions you have. Try to answer the questions below.
information by reviewing the highlighted data before you draw conclusions.
- Try your
own ways of "organizing" the data. For instance, you might
read through the data and list the different chicks seen with RwR-B.
Draw the bands if it helps you.
give up! It might take a little time, but we guarantee that you will
quickly start to "see" some fascinating facts and ask your
own great questions. Remember that this is what scientists must do each
time they face a collection of raw data! Good luck, crane scientists.
to Consider As You Read the Data:
- How old
- How many
times was RwR-B seen?
- With how
many different individuals was RwR-B seen? How many were chicks?
what summer (year) did RwR-B produce its first chick?
- When was
RwR-B's nest first observed? Do you think it was RwR-B's first nest?
- How many
young have been produced?
- For how
many seasons does RwR-B seem to stay with a chick?
- How long
was RwR-B seen staying with chick G-Y? With YbY-Y?
period of time shows no record of chicks produced?
chicks make the spring migration all the way back to Canada's Wood
Buffalo National Park with
the parents. But once in a while, the parents and chick will separate
during migration or even on the wintering ground." Which sighting
is an example of this?
questions do you think the scientists still have, even after collecting
all of these years of data? What questions do you have?
Data from Whooping Crane RwR-B
Science Education Standards
a question about objects, organisms, events.
- Use data
to conduct a reasonable explanation.
critically and logically to make relationship between evidence and explanations.
use different kinds of investigations depending on the questions they
are trying to answer.
develop explanations using observations (evidence) and what they already
know about the world.
have always had questions about their world. Science is one way of answering
questions and explaining the natural world.
and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into
adults, reproducing, and eventually dying.