Whooping cranes teach their young to migrate

This video from the USA says about itself:

Whooping Cranes at Aransas National Wildlife RefugeTexas Parks and Wildlife [Official]

The 5-foot-tall whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America and among the rarest. A small flock of whoopers winters on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most reliable places in the country to see these unique birds.

From Surprising Science blog in the USA:

August 29, 2013

Nurture, Not Nature: Whooping Cranes Learn to Migrate From Their Elders

The Eastern U.S. is home to exactly one population of wild whooping cranes. Each fall, members of the flock migrate more than 3,000 miles, from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. But these enormous, long-lived birds (they can stand up to five feet tall and live as long as 30 years) are endangered, with only about 250 left in the wild.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is trying to change that. Since 2001, the group has bred cranes at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge in Maryland, brought them to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin for nesting, then guided young cranes down to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the winter with an ultralight aircraft, just like the technique used in the movie Fly Away Home.

After their first migration, the cranes are left to their own devices and are forced to make the trip on their own every year. But to ensure their survival, researchers carefully track and log the precise routes they take each year, using radio transmitters attached to the birds.

For Thomas Mueller, a University of Maryland biologist who studies animal migration patterns, eight years of records collected as part of this project were an especially appealing set of data. “The data allowed us to track migration over the course of individual animal’s lifetimes, and see how it changed over time,” he said.

When he and colleagues analyzed the data, they found something surprising. As they write in an article published today in Science, the whooping cranes’ skill in navigating a direct route between Wisconsin and Florida is entirely predicated on one factor: the wisdom of their elders.

“How well a group of cranes does as a whole, in terms of migrating most effectively and not veering off route, really depends on the oldest bird in the group, the one with the most experience,” Mueller says. The years of data showed that, as each bird aged, it got better and better at navigating, and that young birds clearly relied heavily on the guidance of elders—the presence of just a single eight-year-old adult in a group led to 38 percent less deviation from the shortest possible route between Wisconsin and Florida, compared to a group made up solely of one-year-olds. Mueller’s team speculates this is because as the birds age, they grow more adept at spotting landmarks to ensure that they’re on the right path.

For The First Time In 70 Years, Wild Whooping Cranes Have Laid Eggs In Louisiana: here.

7 thoughts on “Whooping cranes teach their young to migrate

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  3. Pingback: Whooping cranes news from the USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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