North American Crane Working Group


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Duff, Joseph W., Lishman, William A., Clark, Dewitt A., Gee, George F., Sprague, Daniel T., and Ellis, David H. Promoting wildness in sandhill cranes conditioned to follow an ultralight aircraft. In: Ellis, David H., ed., Proceedings of the Eighth North American Crane Workshop, 11–14 January 2000, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Seattle, Wash: North American Crane Working Group, 2001), pp. 115-121.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group (NACWG).


During the 1998 field season, we developed and tested a new protocol to teach sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) to follow ultralight aircraft yet avoid humans. Although successful in teaching the cranes a migration route, our previous migration (1997) resulted in birds that were overly tame and sought association with humans. For this study, 16 sandhill cranes were costume-reared at USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and transported to Ontario shortly before fledging. After the birds learned to follow the aircraft, 14 were transported to an isolated wintering site in South Carolina, 1300 km south of the training area. Twelve arrived safely. Eleven of 12 birds survived the winter. All of these 11 cranes moved north to Cape Hatteras in early May. Thereafter, 6 of the cranes were captured and translocated to northern New York state. The remaining 5 returned to South Carolina, autumn 1999. Prior to capture, although the cranes sometimes allowed humans to approach them, none of the cranes approached buildings or humans.