Teacher Tip: Building Students' Vocabulary with Journey North

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

A Whooping crane feather
Photo Cindy Loken

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.

captive breeding When members of a wild species are captured, then bred and raised in a special facility under the care of wildlife experts

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge/Chassahowitzka NWR) (CHAZ uh how ITZ kuh) the refuge in Florida where the ultralight-led Whooping cranes were delivered from 2001 through 2010, and wintering grounds of many of the Eastern migratory flock of Whooping cranes. "Chass" for short.

A small group of cranes that lives and migrates together. Also, a small group of chicks close in age, who are together for flight training in the Whooping crane reintroduction project.

colt An older chick, already fledged, but still in its first year of life

contact call (brood call) Purring sound made by an adult crane to tell chicks, "It's okay, follow me, I'm here."

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.

extirpated Gone 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.

fledge to have developed/grown all the flight feathers necessary for flying; to fly

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.

In May 2010 two chicks were hatched to a crane pair in the FNMP.
Photo Tim Dellinger

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.

GPS (Global Positioning System)

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.

flying in ground effect
Photo Operation Migration

ground effect The name for the chicks' first low flying attempts. In 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 easily 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.)

habitat The place where an organism lives and the conditions of that environment. including the soil, vegetation, water, and food. (Habitats provide the necessary food, water, cover and space.)

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)

Louisiana 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 the Whooping crane captive 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
Finally, in 2016 came the successful hatching of two chicks. This marked the first time in over 75 years that Whooping Crane chicks tached in the wild in Louisiana, and the highly mobile flock population had reached 36 adult birds with 30 birds in Louisiana, 4 in Texas and 2 long-term missing.

migrate To travel seasonally from one place for feeding to a more favorable place for breeding and nesting

molt The process of dropping the old and worn feathers and replacing them with new ones. Whooping Cranes go through a molt every 2-3 years. This process 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.

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (Necedah NWR) (Nuh SEE duh) The area in Wisconsin that was the first summer/breeding home of the new EMP and where many of the new Eastern flock of migrating Whooping cranes continue to spend summer breeding/nesting season

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.

A chick is pipping. See its beak emerging? Photo WCEP

pipping Breaking the eggshell to start the hatching process

pecking order The social dominance structure or social hierarchy among animals. Leaders and followers.

primary feathers The 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.

protocol The strict set of rules by which the young captive-bred cranes are raised and trained so they don't imprint on humans

PTT Platform Transmitter Terminal, or satellite tracking device that can be worn/carried by an animal so its position is detected and known

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.

roost A safe place for a crane to spend the night; also, roosting is sleeping at night

refuge A region of government-protected habitat for wildlife

reintroduction A plan to bring back, or reintroduce, a species in part of their former range where they have been extirpated. The plan began in 2001 with ultralight aircraft-led migrations. Efforts later expanded to include Direct Autumn Release (DAR) and Parent-Reared (PR). The aircraft led migrations were necessary at first, but discontinued at completion of migration for the Class of 2015 in favor of methods with minimal or no human interaction.

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.

Photo Joe Duff

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).

tailwind A wind that is blowing in the same direction as the ultralight and birds are flying; a wind that helps "push" them along from behind

thermal A rising swirl of warm air that birds can glide or soar on; see lesson

Trike. Photo OM

trike Main part of an ultralight airplane

twins Chick pairs. The term for two Whooping Crane siblings hatched, usually one day apart, from the same clutch of a breeding pair's eggs

ultralight aircraft A simple, small, open airplane with three wheels and a large wing, capable of flying at "crane speed" (35 mph and faster)

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.