Bringing Back Endangered Cranes:
Why Is a Second Flock Needed?

In 2001, the world's only migratory Whooping cranes were all in one flock. These birds migrated between Texas and Canada. But what if something happened to that flock? It could wipe out this endangered species. Experts began a daring plan. They would start a new flock of Whooping cranes in eastern North America. The goal? To establish 25 breeding pairs from 125 Whooping cranes released in the Eastern Migratory Flyway by 2020, introducing 18-20 or more chicks each year. No whoopers had been in eastern North America for more than a century. Today, a new flock of wild whoopers is back in the East, and slowly growing bigger. How?

More About This Study

How are scientists bringing back the cranes?
Take a look!
Photos WCEP



Special Whooping crane chicks hatch in spring. Captive Whooping cranes at a Wildlife Research center in Maryland laid some of the eggs. Other eggs are brought there from Zoos or the International Crane Foundation. A few are rescued from the wild.

At the center, the chicks imprint on their own species: adult Whooping cranes that live in the center. But these captive cranes can't teach the new chicks to migrate like parent cranes in the wild do. The captive cranes have never migrated.

Soon the chicks learn to follow a tiny yellow airplane in "ground school." The plane is a stand-in for real whooper parents. Next the chicks are brought to Wisconsin for "flight school." They follow the plane as they learn to fly faster, higher, longer.

When they are about 5 or 6 months old, the chicks will follow the tiny ultralight planes on their first migration. It's a long, risky journey from Wisconsin to the flock's winter home in Florida. Another part of the plan, is Direct Autumn Release (DAR). Some chicks are released to be near adult Whooping cranes in autumn. They will learn the flock's migration route by following adults on fall's journey south. In spring all these young cranes will return to Wisconsin without any help. They'll do this for the rest of their lives. Eventually they will hatch their own chicks and teach them to migrate. The new Eastern flock will grow!

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