Flight School

Whooping Crane

Whooping cranes learn survival lessons from human surrogate parents on NATURE’s Flight School.

At five-feet tall, with a wing span of nearly 8 feet, whooping cranes are among the largest and most beautiful birds of North America. But hunting and other forms of human encroachment drove them to the very edge of extinction in the mid-20th century, when the head count for the last known flock plummeted to an all-time low of just 15. Legal protection, conservation measures, and artificial breeding programs have slowly lifted the number of whoopers to more than 400 today, of which nearly 300 are in the wild. But those are still dangerously low figures.

Enter Operation Migration — a group of scientists from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, and other conservation groups. To help ensure the survival of these endangered birds, Operation Migration maintains an artificial breeding program that prepares chicks for adulthood. Disguising their human appearance with whooping crane costumes, researchers meticulously train the chicks for flight. Using ultralight aircrafts, the scientists then lead them on their inaugural migration — covering more than 1,200 miles. The scientists are hoping that their experiment will enable the birds to grow up as normal adult cranes and successfully breed.

Follow the whooping cranes’ migration and share the excitement, perils and, in some cases, the heartbreak of the scientists of Operation Migration in Flight School.

To order a copy of Flight School, please visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for Flight School was originally posted April 2004.

  • no

    no! foxes rokkkkk!!!

  • Lol

    Lol =)

  • ya

    awsome foxes

  • harklbybobdude

    who r u!!!!!? ^.^

  • heh

    why are you talking about foxes when this is about whooping cranes?

  • bill

    this site doesn’t tell much about what actually happens in the show they have about “Operation Migration”

  • bob

    *SIGH* Whooping Cranes are boooorriiinnggg………

  • no

    ya we have to do a paper on them!!!!

  • whooper b.b.q at my house tonight!!!

    well to be honest whooping cranes are the most uncared about thing in the entire world!!!!!! if you like whooping cranes then you have sever mental issues!
    die whoopers die!!!1

  • wow

    All of you go to the same school, and you’re all doing the same paper for English and Science on whooping cranes, and it’s due tomorrow for all of you. I’m working on it right now. All i want to know is who no is.

  • no

    ya the 8th graders are doing the same paper as us… im a 7th grader and my paper is due tomarrow

  • no

    habzaga… who cares about whooping cranes?????

  • A

    I would like to order a copy of this video and I cannot click on the link above. How can I get it?

  • Kristen Krauth

    Hey, I have LOTS of showing and prize winning chickens for sale!!! They are $10 each. They lay lots of colorful eggs too! The types of chickens I have are Appenzellers, Jersey Giants, and Americanus. The Appenzellers lay white eggs, the Jersey Giants lay brown eggs, and the Americanus lay green and blue eggs. Please tell me if you are interested!!! Thank You!!! =O

  • Kristen Bieger

    On the comment above this one, it meant to say Kristen BIEGER not krauth. sorry.

  • pilot training

    Nice post on whooping cranes. I read the content and it is really good. The artificial crane breeding an artificial breeding program that prepares chicks for adulthood is great work done by International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin. This work is done by the flight schools as these aviation academies not only educate the apprentices but also do the social welfare activities.

  • Nicwit

    They have many cranes in Nebraska.

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