adaptation A physical or behavioral feature that evolved in response to an organism's environment, due to pressures for survival. Adaptations for survival include how a species looks (its anatomy and morphology) as well as how it behaves (how it moves, obtains food, reproduces, responds to danger, etc.). See Adaptations That Help Whooping Cranes Survive.
air pickup The ultralight pilot picks up the young cranes by simply flying low past their enclosure as handlers throw the gates open so the cranes stampede out and take off after the ultralight. This thrilling pickup happens more often when the cranes are advanced in their training and used to flying all together. It helps save time, but it takes skill from both the pilots and birds. The usual pickup method is for a pilot to fly the ultralight from a nearby hangar, airport, or other overnight spot and taxi into position outside the enclosure's gate. The handlers then open the doors and the birds rush onto the grass strip and take off after the aircraft. Sometimes the birds are off the ground before the ultralight.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (Uh RAN zus) The area in Texas where the Western, or main, flock of migrating Whooping Cranes spends each winter feeding season
biodiversity The variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations, including ecosstem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity
blood feathers The term for a certain stage of feather growth: the new feathers just growing in. At this time the quill is filled with blood vessels and pulp with nutrients needed for growing the feathers out. When the feather gets to full size, the blood vessls shrink up and the quill becomes hollow.
blood siblings Chicks that have the same genetic parents. In nature, there are usually little things that keep nest mates from selecting each other as mates, and then the young disperse — making it much less likely that they'll select a blood sibling in subsequent years. In captive breeding, blood siblings happen because the experts control the breeding and they have so few whooping cranes to pair.
members of a wild species are captured, then bred and raised in a special
facility under the care of wildlife experts
older chick, already fledged, but still in its first year of life
Direct Autumn Release (DAR) The autumn release of captive-bred, costume-reared Whooping Crane chicks into the Eastern flock of whooping cranes at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, in hopes that the chicks will follow the wild adults on fall migration and learn their migration route to Florida. Program was begun in 2005.
Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) The reintroduced flock begun in 2000 with the goal of establishing a migratory, self-sustaining population in Eastern North America, where Whooping Cranes had been extirpated for over a century. The new flock is also called the eastern flock to differentiate it from the last remaining self-sustaining wild migratory flock in the more westerly part of North America.
endangered A species with low enough numbers to be in danger of dying out and becoming extinct. Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, were first given the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967.
from a region. Whooping Cranes were extirpated from eastern North America
for over a century. In 2001, WCEP's project
to reintroduce them to their former range began with human migration assistance.
Florida Nonmigratory Population (FNMP) A reintroduced flock started in 1993 to live year-round in central Florida without migrating. This flock was part of the long-range plan to increase the numbers of the endangered Whooping crane species. A total of 289 chicks were released between 1993 and winter 2004-05, when new releases were stopped. The flock had dwindled to only 29 (as of Oct. 2009), due mainly to problems with predation and reproduction, complicated by drought. Besides the scarcity of birds to release and the cost of the project, the birds had shorter-than-expected life spans, and their habitat was shrinking because of human takeovers for development.
Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) continued to study the surviving cranes of the Florida Nonmigratory Population (FNMP) but intensive monitoring of the flock was discontinued in June 2012. Reproduction milestones for the Florida project included the first nest established in 1996, the first egg hatched in 2000 and the first chick reared to fledging in 2002. The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team continues to evaluate how eggs and adult whooping cranes from this flock may be integrated into other existing recovery efforts for the species.
In spring 2011, female #19-05 (#519) from the Eastern migratory flock "persuaded" her new male buddy, a member of the FNMP, to migrate north with her! He had never learned a migration route, so she led the way.
A worldwide radio-navigation system made of a network of government-controlled satellites and their ground stations. The system uses these "man-made stars" as reference points to calculate and pinpoint a radio receiver's position in latitude, longitude and altitude. A GPS device helps the ultralight pilots by showing the plane's exact location on the planet when they're flying, and the speed at which they are covering ground. The pilots can then tell how long they have to go before reaching their destination so they'll know if the birds will likely be able to do it—or if they'll get too tired to go the distance and need to land.
name for the chicks' first low flying attempts.
ground effect flight the wings catch enough air to get the bird a
few feet off the ground. It's
easier to fly when closer to the ground because the bird can more
compress the air under its wings when the ground
is near. (Flight is achieved
by increased air pressure below the wing working against decreased
pressure above it.)
headwind A wind that is coming from the opposite direction in which the cranes and ultralight are flying; they are flying into the wind, so it slows them down.
HY Abbreviation for hatch year. For example: HY 2005 stands for Whooping Crane chicks hatched in 2005.
Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) A viral disease that appeared in the Florida nonmigratory flock in 2002 and in the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock (Western flock) in 2008-09. (The bursa is a lymphatic sac.)
juvenile A young Whooping Crane, between the ages of one and two years
juvenal The first plumage a bird acquires after it loses the plumage it has in the nest. (Not to be confused with juvenile, pertaining to age and meaning sub-adult)
Nonmigratory Population (LNMP) A reintroduced
flock started in 2011 that lives year-round in and does NOT migrate. This
flock is part of the long-range plan to increase the numbers of
the endangered Whooping Crane species. The
flock was first established with the release of ten juvenile Whooping
cranes in February 2011 at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area.
a nonmigratory flock had lived here up until 1950, when all had died.
More chicks will be added each year, as eggs become available from
birds. In April 2014, the first nest occurred; it had two eggs and marked the first time Whooping cranes had bred in Louisiana in 70 years! Slideshow and more
migrate To travel seasonally from one place for feeding to a more favorable place for breeding and nesting
process of dropping the old and worn feathers and replacing them
Cranes go through a molt every
2-3 years. This
takes about six weeks. It usually happens in June and July. Unlike Sandhill
Cranes, which molt a few feathers at a time, Whooping Cranes molt
all flight or primary feathers at one time, making
them flightless. This inability to fly leaves them vulnerable, forcing
them to become
secretive during their molt. This is a dangerous time for them since they are completely flightless for about 6 weeks. They need to be in an area with stable water conditions so they can remain safe from predators. Cranes will sometimes swim to get around
when they are molting and cannot fly, but not having webbed feet
makes swimming a bit difficult.
Non-essential Experimental Population (NEP) A special category within the endangered species of Whooping Cranes, just for the ultralight-led whoopers. This federal NEP rule was necessary to carry out the Whooping Crane Eastern Reintroduction because the migration project has many risks and no guarantees. The cranes in the project cannot considered essential to survival of the species, and their status is threatened rather than endangered. BUT if any of the Eastern cranes venture outside of certain listed areas after they're wild and free, they once again have endangered status. Any land Whooping Cranes inhabit becomes endangered species habitat, which makes that land, even if privately owned, subject to government rules. This could create many problems for landowners and cranes. Twenty possible dispersal States/Provinces are included in the NEP plan: the main flyway States of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida, as well as the neighboring states, and the two Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.
Parent Rearing (PR) An additional program begun by WCEP in 2013 to grow the eastern flock of endangered Whooping cranes. Chicks hatched and reared by captive Whooping cranes at Patuxent WRC in Maryland are transported to Wisconsin, banded, and released near wild adult pairs in autumn in hopes they'll be "adopted" by the pair and migrate south with them to learn the eastern flock's migration route.
pipping Breaking the eggshell to start the hatching process
pecking order The social dominance structure or social hierarchy among animals. Leaders and followers.
black feathers on a whooper's wing tips. They
are necessary for flight. Primary feathers are big and
extra strong to catch air. They
have specially shaped barbs that help keep the feathers from being driven
apart by wind. This makes them suitable for high-speed travel. They must
be strong because they get the most wear and tear during flight. More.
radio telemetry Radio-tracking of Whooping Cranes that wear the tracking devices on a leg band with antenna
Rocky Mountain Flock This experiment to establish a Whooping Crane population in the Rocky Mountain area began when several Whooping crane eggs were transferred into the nests of sandhill cranes between 1975 and 1989. The sandhill cranes raised the hatched Whooping cranes as their own. In 2000, just two Whooping cranes were left after an 18-year-old female was found dead on March 15, 2000, after it collided with an electrical powerline at Monte Vista NWR. The flock has zero surviving cranes today.
A safe place for a crane to spend the night; also, roosting is sleeping at night
subadult A Whooping Crane aged about two to four years, not yet breeding age. Subadult pl umage and markings of subadults are identical to adults. Once cranes reach about 18 months of age, all their adult feathers have come in and they look the same as the breeding adults. You have to make a guess and try to differentiate between subadults and adults by group size and behaviors.
supplemental release technique An additional (supplemental) plan to reintroduce whooper chicks besides leading them with an ultralight plane. The chicks will be conditioned and trained to the ultralight. But instead of following the plane on their first journey south, some will be released among older "ultracranes" to join up and follow them on the first journey south. They will learn their migration route from the older birds, even though the birds aren't their parents. Due to special circumstances, this was first tried in fall 2004 with chick #418 (see biography). The practice was renamed Direct Autumn Release (DAR) in 2005 with five chicks scheduled to participate in what will become an annual practice until the numbers of the new Eastern flock reach goal.
sweet spot The ultralight plane acts as the lead bird in a v-formation; the sweet spot is the position nearest the plane's wing, where a crane gets the most benefit from the air flowing off the wing's surfaces. The crane can soar on that air current instead of flapping its wings, so it's an easy ("sweet") spot for the bird flying in that position. Hear pilot Deke Clark explain more (67-second audio clip).
wind that is blowing in the same direction as the ultralight and
birds are flying; a wind that helps "push" them along from behind
trike Main part of an ultralight airplane
pairs. The term for two Whooping Crane siblings hatched, usually one day apart, from
the same clutch of
a breeding pair's eggs
unison call The sequence of calls made by a male and female with a pair bond
Voiceprint Recording and sonogram of an individual Whooping Crane's voice, which is unique and can identify the individual bird from which it comes
vortex a current or "wake" of air created by the wing of the ultralight in flight
WCEP (say "WEE sep") Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership: the government, public and private organizations working together to reintroduce Whooping Cranes to eastern North America
White River Marsh State Wildlife Area a new Wisconsin training site for the ultralight-led cohort starting with the Class of 2011, replacing Necedah National Wildlife Refgue as the training and introduction site for subsequent class of ulgralight-led Whooping Crane chicks
Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) The wilderness area in northern Canada where the main flock of Whooping Cranes spends the summer breeding and nesting season. See a student's answer telling how whooping cranes were discovered there.