Anatomy Study: Draw a Life-size Whooping Crane
(Adapted from ICF Materials. Thank you!)

A 3rd-grader compares her arm span with a whooper's wingspan.
Photo OM
Wingspan: 7-8 feet!
Photo Operation Migration

What's the tallest bird in North America? If you said Whooping crane, you're right! Adult cranes are about 5 feet tall. How tall are you? See how you size up by drawing a life-size crane. You will compare human skeletons and crane skeletons to figure out what measurements to use to draw a life-size crane. Work as a whole class or in small groups.

What you need:

1. Length of paper 6 feet long
2. Tape measures and rulers
3. Marking pens or pencils
4. Color crayons (assorted colors)
5. Crane skeleton diagram (printer-friendly)
6. Human skeleton diagram (printer-friendly)
7. A human volunteer who is about 5 feet tall: the same height as an adult Whooping crane.

What you do:

  1. Print the skeleton diagrams. (Decide whether you want them larger. If so, enlarge them on a photocopier.) Each group needs a set of the diagrams.

  2. Find the upper arm bones in each skeleton diagram. Color them red. Color the sternum in each skeleton green. Do this for all the remainder of the labeled bones, using different colors for each of the bones. How are the bones on the crane skeleton similar to the bones on the human skeleton? How are they different? Did anything surprise you?
  3. An adult whooper weighs only about 11 to 16 pounds!

    Photo Operation Migration
    Ask your 5-foot-tall volunteer to stand in front of the class. Place your crane and human skeleton diagrams side by side, aligned from head to toe. On your human model, measure the distance from the floor to the top of the pelvis. Write this measurement by the bottom of the neck on your crane skeleton. This tells you how tall your crane should be from toes to "shoulders" where its neck begins. Continue to take measurements from your human model that will help you know how long to make the crane's foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, upper arm, elbow, lower arm, and so on.

  4. Next, mark a line at the bottom of your drawing paper for your life-size crane to stand on. Mark a line 5 feet above this line to show where the top of your crane's head will be. Then mark a line to show where the crane's neck will start. Draw your life-size crane with the help of the other measurements you wrote on your crane skeleton diagram. (You can draw your crane's wings outstretched or folded.)
    The long beak is about as long as half the length of the crane's neck.

Try This! Journal Question

  • Humans and cranes have some of the same bones, but they are used for different purposes. For example, how are the hand bones diffrerent on the two skeletons? How do people use their hands and how do cranes use their hands? What other comparisons can you make with other body parts?

National Science Education Standards

  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, reproduction.
  • Living systems at all levels of organization demonstrate the complementary nature of structure and function.