Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

June 28, 2002

Traveling Container for Chick
Photo OM

All Chicks Now at Necedah!

The second groups of chicks (ten more) arrived today at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Now ALL of this year's chicks are at Necedah for flight school. There are 17! Due to a wing injury, chick #6 stayed at Patuxent WRC. Instead of flying in the Eastern flock, this chick will grow up at Patuxent and become a parent and role model for future chicks.

Like their older flockmates that arrived first on June 12, these two cohorts made the trip aboard a private jet.

Because the 17 chicks have such a wide range of ages and development, they had to be shipped from Patuxent two weeks apart. Transporting them too early is dangerous to fragile young chicks with very long legs. But they need to fly for the first time at Necedah. That means they must be moved before they fledge at around 60 days of age--or they won't want to follow the ultralight. 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 in Wisconsin as their summer nesting and breeding home. .

Because of the age range, the chicks are divided into three groups, called cohorts, for training. 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.

Training three separate cohorts is a lot of work for the pilots, but it's the best way. When the cranes at one site finish their training session, the crew travels to the other sites to repeat the process with each of the other cohorts.

Later, as the cranes begin to follow the ultralight in flight, the trainers will slowly merge them into larger groups and let them work out the dominance structure ("pecking order"). The scientists at Operation Migration want their crane chicks to work out their pecking order without too much actual pecking. They call this process socialization. The goal is to have one cohesive flock just before migration--but it's up to the cranes!

Try This! Link to Lesson
Merging the cohorts not as easy as it sounds! Find out why, and play a pecking order simulation game with our lesson:

After this lessonÍ

Try This! Journaling or Discussion Question

  • We humans have many things in common with animals, including an urge to fit into a social hierarchy. Discuss how school classes are "cohorts" too, with a large number of students all close to the same age. Think about the way kids in a class sort themselves out socially. How is their "pecking order" similar to that of a whooping crane cohort? How is it different? Write your thoughts in your journal, or discuss as a class.

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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