April 27, 2003

Hey, Baby! First Lessons

At Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, young Whooping crane chicks for the new Eastern flock are slowly forming an attachment to the ultralight aircraft. The little yellow plane (here without its wing attached) is their "stand-in parent." The chicks have heard its voice (engine) since they were in the egg before hatching.

The chicks learn to walk behind their caretakers and the ultralight trike within a few days after they are born.

Photo WCEP

Hear biologist and trainer Dan Sprague tell how training begins:

audio clip, MP3

Photo WCEP


craneJD02_03 crane02WCEP_004
The crane chicks are off-limits to public viewing. Why?
Photo Jane Duden
Photo USGS Patuxent
Cranes go back into the "chick run" after training.
Photo Dan Sprague


Try This! Journaling Questions
  • One of the important rules for raising and training the chicks is this: "To reinforce the 'follow the aircraft' response, efforts will be made to minimize the number of times a chick is led by a walking handler. However, during early conditioning, it may be safer to lead chicks to the aircraft rather than to carry them." Why is it so important that chicks learn to follow the aircraft right from the beginning of their lives?
  • Dan used the word forage in the audio clip "How Training Begins." Look up the word and write the meaning in your journal with other vocabulary words you collect.
  • View the video clip

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).