Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

September 4, 2002

Feeling Betrayed--But Getting Over It


Dan Uses Puppet to Feed Smelt Treats
Photo J. Duff for


The Recently Joined Group of 10 Birds, Now at Site 4. Taken 8/30/02. J. Duff for WCEP

From Operation Migration headquarters in Canada, Heather Ray reports the latest: "All cranes survived the health check this year (big sigh of relief) but it is still a lengthy procedure that they find most unpleasant. This past week has seen the pilots and handlers trying to regain the trust of the young cranes following the health check and banding procedure."

Today was the first time the cranes would fly with the aircraft again. Since they were banded, the oldest birds are flying only 3 or 4 minutes instead of 7, with a couple of birds dropping out each time. Why do you think this happened?

Team leader Joe Duff says more: "Over the summer the birds have learned to trust us; we feed them treats and take them flying but recently we had to grab them [for banding]. We spend many hours with them to win back their confidence and eventually they take to the air and follow the aircraft again." One thing they did to regain trust was to feed them lots of tiny fish called smelt. (See photo) Read more here:

Joe said, "Between now and the start of migration we will fly as often as possible to exercise the birds. We will increase their endurance until the season changes and it is time to head south."

Try This! Journaling Questions
  • Whooping cranes are wild but fragile creatures. Team leader Joe Duff explains: "It's hard to balance what we need to get them trained with what they need to keep their wildness." What do you think he means? Think about examples and add them to your journal page in the next weeks.
  • There are some benefits and some problems with health checks and banding. For example, it's VERY stressful for the birds to be captured and held. But the states through which the birds fly want to be sure they are healthy. Banding is a hard process on the birds, but bands help trackers find any birds that stray, and can identify individual birds and their fate. As we learn more about the birds, do you think some of the benefits and problems may change? Do you think the procedures might change over the next few years? Explain your prediction.

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

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