September 29, 2003

A Closer Look at Flying Cranes


Clip: Watch Slow Motion Crane Flight
Watch It Now


After 7 days of too much wind or too much rain, the cranes and ultralights finally were airborne together today. The flight lasted about 15 minutes and all 16 cranes moved over the the north site where water levels are much better than at the east site. On windy or rainy days, the birds are set free to exercise and fly on their own, but it's just too risky to add a plane to the mix. The lead bird is only about six inches away from the wingtip, and that's too close for comfort. No one wants any birds bumping into the plane, which rocks and rolls in bumpy air. That's why training flights and the migration happen in the still, calm air soon after sunrise. They must fly before the sun heats up the earth and air, creating conditions that cause winds — which cause danger for the ultralights and cranes flying so close together.

You'll see what we mean when you look at the video (above, right) of an up-close look at flying cranes in in slow motion. You'll see 3 birds and and the ultralight, very close. Soon you'll see more birds. Look for (1) the strong, black primary feathers and (2) the birds' flight posture as they flap and soar. Notice the slow downward stroke of the wingbeat, followed by a quick upward motion. Do you wish you were in the air with them? How do birds manage to fly? How are their bodies adapted for flying? How do their wings work? What two flying techniques keep them in the air? How is a crane's flight different from other birds? You'll find all those answers and more in our in-depth flight lesson:

Try This! Journaling Question
  • What do you notice about how cranes fly? The video above will show you their flight, and the lesson link above will explain many of the how's and why's. A section at the lesson's end explains how cranes fly. After viewing and reading, write your own paragraph describing how someone could recognize a Whooping Crane in flight.
  • See Crane ID: How Will You Know a Whooper? What birds in flight can be confused with whoopers? What clues tell you it's a whooper?


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