The Great Glide
What does an animal do when it doesn’t know its migratory path? The whooping crane faced this problem. These birds were nearly extinct due to hunting and loss of habitat.
Cranes are excellent navigators. They learn from their parents to follow well-defined paths. But by 1941, there were only 15 whooping cranes left in the world.
Scientists brought up those numbers to more than 400 cranes today. Still, they had a problem. How do you teach chicks raised by people how to migrate?
A solution was hatched. Young birds were trained to follow small aircraft that guided them along a safe route. These birds are so smart, they only need to be shown once. Having made a one-way trip with their guides, they were able to return on their own. Now, the cranes can teach their young!
Whooping cranes needed a lesson on where to go when they migrated.
Millions of animals migrate. They use different ways to help them get where they’re going: Earth’s magnetic field; the sun, moon, and stars; physical landmarks; even smells. Whatever tools animals use, their ability to migrate helps them survive.