Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

July 1, 2002
Whose Territory is This, Anyway?


Chased off! Photo OM

Last year's pioneer chicks in the new Eastern flock were trained right here on the grassy airstrips at Necedah, just where this year's chicks have been training since they arrived in June. The whole goal was for last year's chicks to return on their own to Necedah NWF in the spring as yearlings, as they should every spring the rest of their lives--and they DID---right to their training site.

The WCEP experts predicted the yearling cranes would be seeking open marshes in the vast refuge, staying away from the training grounds the longer they were back for the summer. The training team planned to flush away any of last year's yearling whoopers that show up at the training area. That's what would happen in the wild: the parents would drive the yearlings off when they wandered into a breeding area or a crane pair's established territory.

But yearling Cranes #1 and #2 aren't getting the picture like the others did. Both have aggressive personalities. They aren't easily driven off. Each day, #1 and #2 arrive at the training site just after the ultralight. They have to be chased off. Sometimes Joe chases them with the plane. They've even tried borrowing some fire pumps, similar to super-soakers, to spray the stubborn pair! Then the older birds fly off into the wetland--far enough to watch but not interfere.

The team is actually happy with the birds' behavior. They have settled near their fledging grounds, so it means the project picked a good site. And the birds' wild behavior is proof that their training methods worked. Joe says, "For the handlers and pilots, it is a gift to work in proximity to these rare cranes. Seventeen chicks, still half fawn/half-white follow our every move, while four others in full adult plumage watch from a distance."

Try This! Journaling Question
  • We asked you in the June 12 Highlight to write your own predictions about encounters between the yearling cranes and this year's new chicks. You might want to add some more thoughts to that page.

  • The team will likely add some new rules to the protocol to cover the driving away of yearling cranes, as it's bound to happen over the remaining 3 ultralight migrations (a total of 5 are planned). What do you think some good rules might be?

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

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