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Non-profit organizations, individuals and government agencies joining forces to bring a migratory population of whooping cranes back to eastern North America


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Project Design

Whooping Crane Calls and Vocalizations


Human in crane costume leading a whoopint crane chickRecordings of whooping crane calls and vocalizations are an important component of the whooping crane reintroduction project.  In the last years of the "Sandhill Migration Study", the avoidance of any human sounds was tested, even avoidance of the human imitation of the cranes' "purr" contact call. Instead, digital recordings of authentic crane calls were played from small wristheld loudspeakers and from big loudspeakers attached to the ultralight airplanes.  The crane calls and hardware were provided by Dr. Bernhard Wessling from Germany.


During the Sandhill Crane Study, six different calls or "vocal expressions" from wild sandhills were used. For the Whooping Crane Release and Migration Project, seven different calls and "vocal expressions" are in use.  Those calls include the "contact" call, "defense /aggression" call, "flight" vocalizations, and "attention" or the unison call.  All of these calls were recorded in the wild from the last remaining naturally reproducing whooping craneflock.


Vocal communication using natural sounds from wild whooping cranes reduces imprinting on the human body shape (of the costumed handlers and pilots).  During the sandhill crane experiment, for the first time it was an easy job to get the crane chicks to follow the aircraft into the air. Also, it was possible to call the cranes back "home," during the migration, when they were led away by wild sandhill cranes. Landing on the small island in the wintering area (no airstrip) was easy: with a strong loudspeaker, the contact call was expressed from the ground, while the loudspeaker at the airplane was shut down - the cranes left the airplane and landed near the loudspeaker.


soundbox and joystick inside an ultralightSound Files

Alert Guard Call - mp3
Alert Guard Call - wav


Contact - mp3
Contact - wav


Defense Call - mp3
Defense Call - wav


Flight Call - mp3
Flight Call - wav


Guard Call - mp3
Guard Call - wav


Preflight - mp3
Preflight - wav


Unison Call - mp3
Unison Call - wav


Ultralight Engine - mp3
Ultralight Engine - wav





Dr. Bernhard Wessling is a German chemist and entrepreneur who has been active for over 20 years as a volunteer in crane protection and research. His main focus (besides protection projects) is behaviour, including 5 years of vocal communication and identification research. He developed a technique for recording, computer analysing and "voice printing" cranes which gives the possibility to monitor crane individuals and pairs over many years but from a distance without having to touch them. It is possible to monitor their territorial and partnership fidelity - with surprising results.  Dr. Wessling is involved in five German and international monitoring projects, including recovery of the last wild Whooping Crane population. 



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