Posts Tagged ‘university of maryland’

According to Christopher Joyce at National Public Radio, young whooping cranes learn from older ones, and when older cranes are unavailable, they can learn from ultralights.

“Being a wildlife biologist in the 21st century increasingly means rescuing rare animals from extinction. Among the success stories is the whooping crane. Seventy years ago there were only about 16 birds left on the planet. Now there are about 600.

“But breeding more birds isn’t enough. Scientists want to restore the crane’s way of life, too. And a team of ecologists at the University of Maryland have discovered something that suggests they are succeeding: Captive-bred are picking up tips from older birds about how to skillfully navigate south for the winter.

“It’s a sign that those whooping cranes are passing knowledge from one generation to the next and, in a sense, rebuilding their culture.”

So how do whoopers raised in captivity learn to follow and where to go when there are no older birds around?

“Workers drive around the enclosures in an ultralight, one-person aircraft … that moves along the ground. It’s the first step in teaching these birds to identify an as a mature whooper. Then when the birds are yearlings and it’s migration time, they’re shipped up north, to Wisconsin.

” ‘The ultralight in Wisconsin not only circles on the ground and teaches them to follow,’ [Greg Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey] says, ‘but it also ultimately lifts up into the air’ and accompanies the whooping cranes on their great migration, which lasts between 50 and 100 days.”


Photo: Joe Duff/Operation Migration USA Inc.
This young whooping crane is on its first fall migration, guided by an Operation Migration ultralight aircraft. Each whooper in this population wears an identification band, and many carry tracking devices that record their movements in detail.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: