Flight School

About

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.

Production Credits Print

Television Credits

Narrated by
CRAIG SECHLER

Producer
JO SARSBY

Directors
TOM HUGH-JONES
EMMA ROLFE

Photography
MARK PAYNE-GILL
TOM FITZ
MARK SMITH

Film Editor
JO PAYNE

Sound
MIKE KASIC

Dubbing Editor
PAUL CLARK

Dubbing Mixer
MARTYN HARRIES

On-line Editor
STEVE OLIVE

Music
BARNABY TAYLOR

Graphics
BBC DESIGN BRISTON
CHRISTOPHER VASS

Production Executive
CHRISTINA HAMILTON

Production Coordinator
LESLEY BISHOP

The BBC Wishes to Thank:
George Gee
Kate Fitzwilliams
Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre
International Crane Foundation
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
Operation Migration
Aerial Photography - Joe Duff and Bill Lishman
United States Geological Survey
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Centre
Rowe Sanctuary
Aransas Wildlife Refuge
Jasper Pulaski Fish And Wildlife Area
Terry Cooke
David Hancock
John Ireland And Mary Taitt
Jim Bergen
Tom Stehn
Steve Nesbitt
George Archibald

Series Editor
MICHAEL GUNTON

BBC BRISTOL
© BBC MMIII

For NATURE:

Series Editor
JANET HESS

Supervising Producer
JANICE YOUNG

Producers
PATTY JACOBSON
JILL CLARKE

Associate Producers
IRENE TEJARATCHI
GIANNA SAVOIE

Production Secretary
KELLY LAFFERTY

Manager
EILEEN FRAHER

Production Manager
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN

Offline Editor
PATRICK GAMBUTI JR

Online Editor
MARK SUTTON

Sound Mixer
ED CAMPBELL

Series Producer
BILL MURPHY

Executive in Charge
WILLIAM GRANT

Executive Producer
FRED KAUFMAN

A Co-Production of Thirteen/WNET New York
and the BBC

This program was produced by
Thirteen/WNET New York,
which is solely responsible for its content.

Web Credits 

Producer
MARY HOPE GARCIA
DANIEL B. GREENBERG

Art Director
SABINA DALEY

Designers
MICHAEL DIMAURO
KAREN MATTSON
RADIK SHVARTS

Pagebuilding
BRIAN SANTALONE

Writer
DAVID MALAKOFF

Production Artist
RUIYAN XU

Technical Director
BRIAN LEE

About the Writer

David Malakoff is a journalist covering research discoveries and the politics of science for SCIENCE MAGAZINE in Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in a wide range of venues, including THE ECONOMIST, THE WASHINGTON POST, and ABCNews.com.

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Dan Goldman, Executive Director, thirteen.org. Bob Adleman, Business Manager.