See the Migration Take Off! Back

Discussion of Questions in Viewing Guide

  • Why is it rather dark when the cranes take off? (Think about the time of day at which the ultralights and cranes must fly.)

    It is rather dark when the cranes take off. To get the calmest air, they must fly shortly after sunrise. As the sun heats the earth, winds are caused by uneven heating. In the wild, cranes use the heated columns of rising air (thermals) to aid them in migration. They can glide on the thermals and don't need to flap all the time. Flapping is hard exercise, while gliding is easy fun.

  • What happens first? Next? Last?

    First the trike (ultralight) lands by the pen and revs its engine to get the birds excited. Next, the costumed handlers open the gates and release the cranes. They flap their wings to urge the cranes to hurry and fly. (Did you see the last crane come out? He needed some urging to get going! Last, the handlers close the gates.

  • Why do you think one of the ground crew is ready to play the role of the Swamp Monster as the birds take off?

    One of the ground crew is ready to play the role of a scary "Swamp Monster" in case any birds need to be scared up into the air to fly with the others.

  • Why is another ultralight is heard after the cranes and lead pilot have flown off in the distance?

    After the lead pilot takes off, the other ultralight pilots can take off to be there for any birds that drop out or don't catch up with the others. The chase pilots wait until the lead pilot has a chance to get into the distance so they don't distract or confuse the young cranes as they try to follow.

Video Heather Ray, Operation Migration