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Whooping Crane Kids: Learning Life's Lessons

Learning to migrate
Unlike other birds, young whooping cranes don't know by instinct where to migrate. They have to be taught!

Chicks in Captivity
The puppet (called robo-crane) encourages the chicks to accept the trike (a nickname for an Ultralight plane). The fence protects the chicks while they learn to follow the aircraft. As they grow, when they hear the trike coming near their pen, a handler lets them out. They jump and flap and charge down the grass after it. Finally they lift off and fly.

When they finally take off, the chicks (especially the lead ones) ride on a stream of air that comes over the wing. You might say the aircraft tows the birds along!

Chicks in the Wild
Wild whooping cranes learn migration from their parents. Chicks spend most of the first year with them. Then they separate from their parents after the first journey south. Some leave their parents while on the wintering grounds. Others leave them on the migration north.

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Photo credits
Captive cranes: Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP)
Wild cranes: Steve Nesbitt, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission