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April 22, 2003

Imprinting: Who Am I?

Photo Dan Sprague, PWRC

This new chick (#302, hatched April 22) cuddles with a realistic-looking crane puppet head. This helps with proper imprinting (an attachment the chick develops for whomever feeds and cares for him). It's important that chicks see other Whooping cranes from birth, so they get the right idea about what species they belong to.

The whooping crane chicks are being hand-reared (costume-reared) by humans who use crane puppets and wear big white costurmes to hide their human form. The chicks are being imprinted on Whooping cranes, while being raised by humans. The humans must NEVER speak or sneeze or make any human noises while around the cranes. These wild birds must not come to know or depend on humans because that would make them less able to survive as wild birds when they they are released on their own. Find out more about imprinting:

Trainer Dan Sprague, Biologist, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Meet Dan Sprague

Audio Clip
.mp3 file, 245K, .wav file, 146K, .aif file, 146K)

Hear Dan Explain Why He Wears the Costume

Audio Clip
.mp3 file, 531K, .wav file, 279K, .aif file, 279K)

Try This! Imprinting Lessons, Journaling Questions

  • See Lesson:
  • A protocol is a set of rules. The experts who train these crane chicks and lead them on migration follow an official protocol. It was written by Operation Migration, the people who first led birds on migration using ultralight airplanes. Print and read Operation Migration's official Protocol. As you read, think of possible reasons why each rule is important. Note reasons in your journal or on the chalkboard as you discuss them in class.
  • Dan uses the word imprinting when he explains why he wears the costume. After you listen to the audio clip (see above), write the word and its meaning inyour journal. As you read the coming Highlights, list some ways that biologists help baby cranesto imprint correctly on their species.

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

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