Wise Old Whooping Cranes Teach Young How to Migrate
Older whooping cranes teach youngsters the way to Florida and back, study shows.
New research shows that, at least in the case of whooping cranes, the birds do learn the route from their older and more experienced companions—and all of them get better at navigating with age and experience.
Flying groups that include a migration-savvy, seven-year-old crane veer off-course 38 percent less than groups in which the oldest birds are only a year old, according to an eight-year study of whooper migration between Wisconsin and Florida. On average, the one-year-olds that don't follow older birds veer off the flight path by 60 miles (97 kilometers).
But the cranes' migration ability improves steadily with age, the study shows. Groups with even one of these older birds deviate less than 40 miles (64 kilometers), on average,