Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

July 17, 2001

Photo: Operation Migration.

Feathered for Flight: We Have Lift-off!

Trainer Dan Sprague of USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center leads the chicks for a training session. In this photo the trike is still "wingless." Later the wings will be added. The chicks become accustomed to each change gradually.

Notice the black feathers on the cranes' wingtips? These are called the "primary feathers." The young cranes' feathers are growing, and the primary wing feathers are big and strong enough to catch air now. Three of the older cranes have even been gliding a few feet already. They travel only about 100 feet. Air currents on the ground cause a "ground effect" and make it easier to fly. The long, black outer feathers must do the hardest work in flying. The black pigments within the feathers make them stronger, so they'll last during a long migration. When the wing flaps downward, each primary feather's strong flat surface pushes against the air to hold the bird up. The large surface area of these feathers helps hold the birds up when thermal air currents or updrafts push against them.


Try This: Link to Lesson
How does a whooping crane fly? Check out our lesson and links for activities and answers:

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

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