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Whooping Cranes Make Trip to Florida in Record Time

By Georgia Parham
External Affairs

Five ultralight-led whooping cranes arrived in Florida, in November 2012.  (Courtesy photo by Operation Migration)
Five ultralight-led whooping cranes arrived in Florida, in November 2012. (Courtesy photo by Operation Migration)

The November 23 arrival of five young whooping cranes in Florida marked the earliest that ultralight-led cranes have completed the 1,200-mile trip from Wisconsin. The birds departed Wisconsin on September 29 and arrived at their wintering grounds at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, Florida. These cranes are the 12th group to be guided by ultralight aircraft from central Wisconsin to the Gulf coast of Florida.

In addition to the five birds led south by ultralight aircraft, six cranes made their first southward migration as part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program. The DAR cranes were hatched and raised by biologists with project partner International Crane Foundation. The six birds were released in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learn the migration route south.  The ultralight-led and DAR cranes are joining two wild-hatched chicks in the 2012 cohort.

Six young whoopers were part of the Direct Autumn Release Program.  (Courtesy photo by WCEP)
Six young whoopers were part of the Direct Autumn Release Program. (Courtesy photo by WCEP)

There are now 115 whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America, thanks to efforts by the WCEP partners, including the Service, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, the Wisconsin DNR and others.  WCEP is conducting the reintroduction project in an effort to restore this endangered species to part of its historic range in eastern North America.

To follow the progress of the program, go to www.bringbackthecranes.org 

In other whooping crane news, two Indiana men, John Burke and Jason McCarter, plead guilty to shooting a whooping crane in Knox County, Indiana, in early 2012.  The whooping crane killed was a WCEP bird; it was taught its migratory path by ultralight aircraft and belonged to a nesting pair. For more information click here.

-FWS-

 

Last updated: January 9, 2013