Each year, personnel from the conservation organization Operation Migration don human-sized crane costumes and climb aboard an ultra-light plane to lead young orphan cranes south to a wintering refuge. This year, the organization promises live streaming of preparatory migration activities followed by a birds-eye-view from inside the aircraft after takeoff. Crane enthusiasts can watch this year’s batch of endangered young whooping cranes as they prepare for their first migration south. Right now, you can see the adorable young cranes peck around their enclosure, preparing for their long trip.
Operation Migration is dedicated to helping the cranes recover their numbers, which sank to just 14 in the 1940s. But the flight to teach to them the migration route doesn’t always go smoothly. For this past winter’s flight, the operation ran into legal trouble, as the Associated Press reported:
regulations say only pilots with commercial pilot licenses can fly for hire. The pilots of the plane for the group, Operation Migration, are instead licensed to fly sport aircraft because that is how the group’s small, open plane with a rear propeller and birdlike wings is categorized. Regulations also prohibit sport aircraft from being flown to benefit a business or charity.
And some years the birds just don’t want to fly.
More from Smithsonian.com: