Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

June 19, 2003

Goodbye Patuxent, Hello Necedah

The ten oldest chicks of hatch year 2003 took their first flight today--but INSIDE a plane. The gangly young cranes arrived via private jet at Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge--the new summer home and future breeding grounds for the Eastern flock. Upon arrival, full body x-rays were taken of each chick while still inside their individual crates. After a brief health exam the ten chicks were divided into two groups, based on their ages (determined by hatch order). Then each group of chicks, called a cohort, was driven to their own enclosure on a secluded marsh. After about 30 minutes, they were released from their shipping crates to explore their new surroundings.

The chicks can't fly yet, which is very important. They must be moved before they fledge (fly), or they won't want to follow the ultralight. Whooping cranes learn to fly around 60 days of age. Another reason for delivering them to Necedah before they fledge is that cranes will always return to the place where they learned to fly. These young whoopers will think of the wetlands around Necedah NWR as their summer home and future breeding grounds--exactly what experts hope for.

The youngest 7 chicks will stay at Patuxent WRC for about two more weeks. After they arrive, they will be housed and trained at their own enclosure, separate from the other two cohorts. Each cohort has its own pen and its own training site. Keeping them apart helps their social development. They also train better when they are with chicks close to their age.
Private Plane Arrives
Each chick travels in its own crate.
Chicks are released into their new enclosure. Photos WCEP.

Try This! Journaling Question
  • Cranes are territorial birds. The now subadult ultralight cranes that returned to Necedah in spring 2001 and 2002 were trained on the same sites where the new chicks arrived today. What predictions can you make if the subadult whoopers hang around the new chicks?
  • What are TWO important reasons why the chicks are moved to the reintroduction site (Necedah) before they can fly?

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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