Grade 1

Weekly Reader Article

Follow the Leader

A group of sandhill cranes made their first flight last fall by learning to follow the leader. But their leader was not another crane. The birds followed a scientist who flew a small airplane.

Sandhill Cranes Soar South

Eleven sandhill cranes flew from Wisconsin to Florida last fall. The birds followed a scientist flying a small airplane on the 39-day trip.

Each fall, cranes travel from cold areas, like Wisconsin, to warm areas, like Florida. Baby cranes learn from their parents how to make the trip. But these cranes learned to follow scientists.

When the sandhill cranes hatched, the first thing they saw was a group of scientists dressed to look like adult cranes. The scientists fed the chicks. The chicks thought the scientists were their mothers.

Then the scientists trained the young birds to follow an airplane. The scientists played a tape of the noise that planes make. They also played sounds adult sandhill cranes make. So the cranes learned to trust and follow people in planes.

Cranes Helping Cranes

By flying to Florida, 11 sandhill cranes were helping their cousins, the whooping cranes. Many sandhill cranes live in the United States. But few whooping cranes live here anymore.

Only one group of whooping cranes knows how to migrate, or travel, from the North to the South. Scientists hope to teach other whooping cranes to migrate. More cranes may survive if they can learn to travel back and forth.

Next year, scientists will train whooping cranes to migrate the same way they trained sandhill cranes.