Welcome! Here's How to Participate
September, 2008

  • Year Eight! Journey South with Endangered Whooping Cranes Led by Ultralights >>
  • Where Are They Now? Meet the Cranes and See Egg-to-Sky Timeline >>
  • News Summaries on Fridays (by E-mail) >>
  • BEFORE Migration: Build Background with Downloadable Booklets for Kids >>
  • DURING Migration: How to Track Migration in the Classroom >>
  • Fall Lessons and Activities >>

Tip: Bookmark the Whooping Crane Home Page

Clip: Watch Slow-Motion Crane Training Flight
Watch It Now
Year Eight: Journey South with Endangered Whooping Cranes Led by Ultralights
Photo Heather Ray

Welcome! Year EIGHT in the historic conservation project to reintroduce Whooping Cranes to the eastern part of North America is nearing takeoff. As of early August, fifteen hatch-year 2008 chicks for the new Eastern flock were in "Flight School" at Wisconsin's Necedah (say Nuh SEE duh) National Wildlife Refuge. Just weeks from now they must be ready for their thrilling but risky first migration. They'll depart in October behind ultralight airplane "parents" that show the way. For the first time, the route in fall 2008 is changed: no mountains to cross (in hopes of avoiding weather delays)!

An additional six young whooper chicks are being costume-reared for a different flight plan. After the ultralight planes depart with their chicks, these crane-kids will be released among the older adult Whooping cranes summering on the Wisconsin refuge. Experts hope they will follow the older cranes all the way to Florida, thus learning the lifelong migration route for the reintroduced flock. These six whooper chicks are part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program. DAR is another step for adding young cranes to this growing new flock. This is year four for the DAR program.

We wonder: Will the chicks all make the journey safely? How long will this year's ultralight-led migration take? What highlights and lowlights await on the nearly 1,285-mile journey (route changes in 2008) through seven states? You'll find out on Journey South this fall. Read on to see how to participate. We're glad you're here!

Where Are They Now? Meet the Cranes and See Egg-to-Sky Timeline

Because this year's story really began during the summer, now's the time to meet the new "ultra-chicks" and catch up on their progress. We've kept track of the "Class of 2008" since they hatched last spring. After learning their personalities, you'll see why many students enjoy "adopting" a crane to follow throughout fall's journey south and spring's return journey north!

Our timeline of key events will help you follow the flock's milestones so far. Use the information to start a school or classroom timeline now; add to your timeline when the daily migration Updates start in October.

News Summaries on Fridays (by E-mail)

Pre-migration: Each Friday, a brief e-mail notice gives current newsy tidbits and announces the next of six downloadable booklets for building background.

During migration: When migration begins, the Friday e-mails will summarize that week's Highlight Updates (complete with latest maps, facts, photos, and fun), which were posted DAILY on the Web.

E-mail Summaries are posted to registered participants on FRIDAYS:
Sep. 5, 12, 29, 26; Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; Nov. 7, 14, 21. . .or until this year's newest Eastern Whooping Crane chicks reach their winter home in Florida!

BEFORE Migration: Build Background with Downloadable Booklets for Kids

Do you wonder what makes a chick think a tiny airplane is its mom? Why are they following a 350-pound airplane and not their own parents? What are those billowy white costumes about? Why is pecking order a big deal when raising these chicks? Our just-for-kids nonfiction booklets offer facts while building reading skills and supporting standards. Between now and the migration departure in October, a series of weekly downloadable nonfiction booklets (in a recommended chronological order) will cover the “Big Ideas” of the young cranes' development and training. A companion Teacher Guide helps make the most of each booklet and coordinating lessons on the Web. Booklets are also available on the Web in slide show format.

DURING Migration: How to Track Migration in the Classroom

Follow Daily Migration Updates
Come fly with the whoopers! See our daily Web postings with the latest news, maps, and photos starting on Day One of the migration. (Watch for early- to mid-October target depature date to be announced later.)

Map the Migration
This link tells you how to purchase a map or make your own so you can track the migration from Wisconsin all the way to Florida using information in our daily Web reports. We also suggest fun ways to handle students' real-life questions as they follow the map and daily narratives during migration.

Keep Migration Journals
Print our ready-to-go templates so students can make migration journals, writing creative headlines and summarizing the young cranes' adventures in their own words. Pages have space for responses to the great Journaling Questions that end each of the daily Web Updates, too. The coming season will be rich with concrete examples of key science concepts and organizing themes that can provide focus for student journals: habitat, weather, flight, navigation, adaptations, costume-rearing protocol, endangered species, and more. Use these ready-made journal pages as we've designed them, or download and edit them to fit your needs.

Predict and Compare
Keep records on this chart as the migration unfolds. The link also gives instant comparison to the previous six ultralight-led migrations.

Fall Lessons and Activities
Photo OM

How do cranes fly? Why do planes have to lead the birds? What's it like to fly an ultralight? Who's on the team to carry out the migration? Why are Whooping Cranes endangered? How many are alive today? How many chicks will survive their first migration and make it back to Wisconsin in the spring? We'll help you discover answers (and more questions!) as the exciting migration unfolds. To learn more about this historic study, see:

Thank you for joining us in this exciting migration. Now the fun begins!