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September 19, 2002
Calling All Colts!
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Vocalizer plays contact call

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The trike pilot pushes these buttons to call the birds with recordings.


It may seem strange, but colt is another name for a crane chick. And trike is another name for ultralight plane. How do the pilots get the colts to follow the trike? They talk to the cranes in "crane-glish." All it takes are some recorded calls from real adult cranes. The trainers have small units called vocalizers they can hold in their hands to use with the puppet. The vocalizers play digital recordings of the crane calls. The trikes are specially equipped with a speaker and push-button vocalizer so the pilots can play the recordings to say "Come, follow me!" Like humans, cranes use their voices many ways to say many things. Training goes much better when the pilots and handlers can "talk to" the cranes in crane language. The call most used with chicks is called the contact call (brood call).

The very first ultralight-led colts in 2001 had one contact call, but a the call from a different adult is being used for the HY 2002 birds. Click here to listen to the new call. How would you describe it?

These valuable and helpful crane calls were recorded by Dr. Bernhard Wessling, who discovered that individual whooping cranes can be identified through their unique voiceprints.


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

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