A Tale of Two Cranes:
    How Do Wild and Costume-raised Whoopers Compare?

    Reading Writing Selection

    Reading and Writing Connections

    Imagine this: You are a young Whooping Crane on your wintering grounds for the first time in your life. You've never seen such a place! Everything is different: the food, the plants . . . and even the water. It tastes salty! This is where you are going to spend every winter for the rest of your life, but you have a LOT to learn.

    This is exactly what it's like for the young Whooping Cranes that hatch each spring in Canada's far north and, at a few months of age, follow their parents 2,500 miles to Texas. It's also what it's like for some Whooping Crane chicks that hatch in captivity to be part of the new Eastern flock. They hatch in Maryland, then fly inside a plane to Wisconsin and then learn to follow an ultralight plane "parent" 1,250 miles to Florida.

    What's Alike? What's Different? Both groups of cranes are expected to eat a similar diet of blue crabs and other small aquatic and near-shore animals, and acorns and other nutritious plants. Both groups have to learn to recognize new predators and deal with new weather situations. But there's a BIG difference between them. The wild-hatched cranes have their parents to guide them. The captive-hatched chicks have scientists involved in the Reintroduction program (WCEP). The people try to limit contact with the cranes, but also do their best to teach the cranes to adapt to the new environment.

    What are some differences and similarities between what the two groups of young cranes face and how they deal with their winter environment? Let's consider two fictional cranes: Captive-bred Harry Whooper and wild-bred Hermione Whoop. How do you think they'll deal with various situations or environmental factors? Copy the following chart into your journal, or use our handout. Then make predictions and write them on your chart. As you follow the season, see how accurate your predictions were.

How successful are they at:

Captive-bred Harry

Wild-bred Hermione

Taking proper care of their bodies


Finding appropriate food


Figuring out how to eat blue crabs


Responding to motor boats


Avoiding people and pets


Finding shelter in bad weather


Avoiding or dealing with predators


Socializing with other cranes


Making proper vocalizations


Preparing for spring migration


Reaching their summer grounds


National Science Education Standards

  • Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying.
  • An organism's behavior patterns are related to the nature of that organism's environment.
  • Many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents, but others result from an individual's interactions with the environment.

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