Putting It All Together: How Cranes Fly

To learn the general principles of bird flight, you may wish to start with our
Bird Flight Primer
Cranes have large wings, a long neck, and long legs. They fly with their legs stretched out behind and their neck stretched out ahead. Their long, wide wings allow them to fly using different kinds of flight techniques, but because their wings are so long and wide, it takes a lot of energy to flap them — just like it's a lot of work running with a large kite until it takes off!

When cranes fly just a few miles or less, they use typical flapping flight. They usually flap with steady, fairly shallow beats until they come in for a landing. Then they use their legs and wings to slow down and ease their way to the ground.

When cranes fly long distances, especially on migration, they often soar on thermals until they reach a great altitude. Then they use a combination of gliding/soaring and occational flapping to cover the longest distance using the least amount of energy.

Try This! Flying Cranes (and Contest)
This silhouette was drawn from a real crane. But can it fly?
Crane silhouette pattern
See if you can design a crane that can really fly, or at least glide. Use cardboard, paper, paste or glue, paper clips, and any other materials you want to try. If you want a pattern designed from a real crane silhouette, click on the small pattern to see a larger one. Or try to develop your own pattern; use paper airplane designs or anything else that might work. Get together with other crane makers to test the birds. Which stay aloft the longest? Which fly the farthest?