12 - Flight school involves motivating, motor learning, and social learning.

  • Motivating with "demonstration flights" - Through June and most of July, while Roy and Millie walk slowly and forage in the marsh, Pi follows them closely. Demonstration flights start in late July: a parent breaks off foraging and flies across the nest territory while Pi watches intently and occasionally flaps his wings. On August 3, Millie left Pi and Roy on the south side of the pond and flew across (north) to Bog Central. Since Pi had not yet fledged, Pi and Roy followed Millie by swimming directly across the pond (see Early Life of Pi Photo Gallery # 10). Swimming is slower and more taxing than flying.
  • Motor learning - Family dances improve motor coordination for flight. Millie and Roy encourage Pi to run and flap. Next, he starts to bound on his own across Bog Central, trying to catch air. [Images 1-6 below and August 2, 5 & 6 in the video below]

    On August 8, Pi fledged and flew across the pond. In every flight thereafter, he practiced his techniques for taking off, for maneuvering in the air, and for landing. Pi was tired by the exertions and often plopped down to rest after return to the nest pond. [Image 15 below]

  • Social learning - Once fledged, Pi must learn social protocols for flying in tandem. [Images 7-14 below and the video]
    Colts must pay attention to Intent-to-fly, to defacating, and to purring, so that the family takes off in formation. Once airborne, he must anticipate changes in flight patterns and land with his parents.

For 8 months of fall, winter, and early spring, the family repeatedly drops into and lifts out of bustling noisy hordes of cranes. Every colt must try to stick with his parents. It is easy to be confused and become separated amidst a bustling crowd.

Colts who have lost their parents are often seen flying aimlessly and peeping plaintively at major staging areas, like the Central Valley of California or the Platte River valley in Nebraska.