The Annual Cycle of the Whooping Crane
January February March April May June
July August September October November December
October: Learning the Route
Whooping Crane from the Class of 2012 trains with Operation Migration's ulralight plane

Whooping Crane Migration MapMap

Photo Credit
Operation Migration

October is the month when the journey south begins. Whether they were born in Wisconsin (eastern flock) or Canada (western flock), baby cranes must be taught their migration route. In Wisconsin, crane chicks have been hand raised each summer since 2001 to follow an ultralight airplane to learn their migration route. These cranes and planes depart in October on the 1,280-mile journey south to Florida, which is the wintering grounds for the eastern migratory flock. It takes about three months. Adult cranes in the eastern flock can migrate faster, and leave later. Meanwhile, in Canada the larger western flock is already underway. Their migration to the Gulf Coast of Texas is twice as far as the eastern flock's. The summer's babies learn not only the route between their summer and winter homes, but the preferred stopover sites as they're led on their first migration south. Whether they make the journey with their parents or with the ultralights, the youngsters need to fly the route only once to remember it for the rest of their lives.

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