Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR News Archive

Check out our Activities and Events Calendar.

Visitor Center Open Tuesday - Saturday, 9am to 3pm, Entry is free. (Closed on Federal Holidays)

 
           

News today - July 31: About 45 people gathered at the refuge visitor center this morning to view a female bald eagle released back into the wild. The bald eagle was shot in March in Pearlington, MS and brought to the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center in Biloxi, MS for rehabilitation.

Once treated and ready for the final stages of rehab, the USFWS requires a bald eagle to have a larger cage to practice flight in and the Center took the eagle to the Auburn University Raptor Center in Auburn, AL.

Visitors got to see her fly from her handlers arms and land in a nearby tree at the C. L. Dees trail where she stayed and examined her freedom for awhile. We hope to continue to see her around the area with Bayou Castille close by.

She's still somewhat young (approx 3-4 yrs), but is starting to get her white tail and head feathers which will give her the iconic look of our nation's symbol.

 
Bald Eagle about to be Released
           
 
           
July 30: The Junior Refuge Manager Program now has an official patch! Come on out and participate in the program for free anytime the refuge is open (Tuesday - Saturday, 9am to 3pm). You can pick up the booklet at the visitor center or print it here. The program is geared for 8-12 yr olds, but can be fun for younger or older kids as well.

You do have to do some trail research to become a Junior Refuge Manager - so bring plenty of water and prepare to spend a little time walking the C.L. Dees trail (3/4 mile loop). Refuge staff or volunteers will teach about how to use a fire weather kit and participants can choose a prize: water bottles, keychains, backpacks and now, the official Junior Refuge Manager patch!
 
New Junior Refuge Manager Patch
           
 
           

News this Week - June 16: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sent over 472 personnel to assist with the oil spill and for gulf coast refuges like Mississippi Sandhill Crane, that means the large majority of our staff have been working on oil spill response teams.

The Gulf Coast Refuge Complex is made up on Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, Grand Bay NWR and Bon Secour NWR. While Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR is about 5 miles inland, both Grand Bay and Bon Secour NWRs are coastal and have been seeing oil and tar ball contamination.

The USFWS as a whole has been working days, and now night shifts, trying to protect the habitat and the wildlife using our refuge lands. One big night activity is protecting sea turtles at Bon Secour who normally come to land this time of year to lay their eggs.

While these efforts are extremely important and a large focus of the refuge and USFWS time, it's also a time to continue celebrating the wildlife heritage that the U.S. has worked so hard for over 100 years to maintain. Young Mississippi sandhill cranes are still hatching at the refuge and just last week a young crane was banded before their anticipated first flight.

Additionally, 2010 is the year that the USFWS celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. (More Info)

While we are up for a difficult time protecting and restoring our gulf coast waters and beaches for many years, it's important to remember that we do still have a heritage of wildlife conservation in this nation. And as USFWS, NPS, other agencies, local and non-local volunteers pull together to work with one another on this disaster, it becomes a reminder of what we are able to do as both as a nation and as a planet concerned about the future of our wildlife.

 
The USFWS keeps this site updated with Oil Spill Information: http://www.fws.gov/home/dhoilspill/
           
 
           

News this Week - June 1: Come to the last Colt Capers of the season before the Summer Break on Friday and Saturday (June 4, 5) at 10am. We'll be learning about "Leaves!". Colt Capers is a nature exploration program for children ages 3 to 5. Come out, read a story and do a fun activity with Ranger Doug!

The visitor center is still open Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 3pm. The C.L. Dees Nature Trail is in full bloom with carnivorous plants, colic root and the orchids are just coming up! Saturday is National Trails Day and a great opportunity to get the family outside and enjoy the wet pine savanna.

 
Colt Capers
           
 
           
News this Week - May 11: For the most up to date U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Oil Spill information, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/home/dhoilspill/

The visitor center is still open Tuesday - Saturday, from 9am to 3pm. Crane nesting season is still going well, we have had 18 known nests this season so far including a new nest found as recently as Saturday. More info to come.

We are still accepting applications for Crane Camp, but spaces are going fast so sign up today! To be held June 16, 17, 18 from 9am to noon. Campers aged 9-11 will have a lot of fun with a great schedule planned including Fire Academy, Kayaking and more! $5 registration fee covers the entire camp.
           
 
           
News this Week - April 30: In the wake of the oil spill, the refuge is getting many calls and emails from volunteers and concerned citizens. We are thankful for all the concern and support for the wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working closely with other federal agencies and contractors to ensure that we are making a concerted effort together that will be to the largest benefit of the wildlife and locals affected by the spill.

For inquiries about volunteering for cleanup, please call 1-866-448-5816. To report oiled wildlife, please call 1-866-557-1401.

Additional information, including maps such as the one seen to the left can be found at the following website: http://www.d8externalaffairs.com/go/site/2931

Additional information can be found at http://ocean.floridamarine.org/acp/mobacp/

 
Oil Spill  NOAA Map
           
 
           
News this Week - April 23: Several visitors have seen the Bachman's Sparrow on the C.L. Dees Nature Trail by the visitor center this week. The bird was also seen during the Birds and Buds Trail Tour this morning. Our last of these tours is tomorrow morning at 8am - come out and enjoy the walk with volunteer Charlie Delmas!

Also Upcoming: Colt Capers, May 7th and 8th. Register today. There is no fee, but we do ask for pre-registration so that we can prepare for our activity. We will be learning about worms!

May 8th is also International Migratory Bird Day! Come out to the refuge from 11am - 3pm to participate in our craft to create window hangers to help birds avoid collisions! This is a free event.

We are now accepting applications for Crane Camp! To be held June 16, 17, 18 from 9am to noon. Campers aged 9-11 will have a lot of fun with a great schedule planned including Fire Academy, Kayaking and more! $5 registration fee and limited space.
           
 
           
News this Week - April 20: Fire ecology is an important part of maintaining the unique wet pine savanna of the gulf coast. Historically, burns were wildfires started by lightning storms that may burn for days or weeks into hundreds and thousands of acres.

Several plants native to the wet pine savanna require fire to complete their life cycles. One great example is wire grass - the golden waves of the savanna. If wire grass does not receive fire during the growing season, it won't produce seeds. It relies on fire to continue it's existence within the savanna over time. Other plants, like longleaf pine and saw palmetto are specially adapted to live in fire-managed ecosystems.

Today, fire management officers mimic the natural role of fire using prescribed burning. These burns are typically 300-500 acres with some smaller units. Some units are burned during the growing season for plants like wire grass. Other units are burned in the fall or early summer, depending on the fire management officer's objective for that unit.

To date in 2010, the refuge's fire crew has burned 2,538 acres. Fire season has just begun. Click on the thumbnails below to see larger photos and use the Fire Management link on the left to learn more about prescribed burning.

 
Prescribed Burning
Prescribed Burning Article
Prescribed Burning Article
Prescribed Burning Article
Prescribed Burning Article
Prescribed Burning Article
           
 
           
News this Week - April 16: This was an eventful week at the refuge. 400 fifth graders came out to the refuge to participate in the Eco Umbrellas program. This program is geared towards upper elementary/middle school students to teach them about the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique wet pine savanna habitat as well as the other gulf coast habitats found here.

Focus on canivorous plants and real world biology and fire ecology give the students a look into the world of National Wildlife Refuges and explore career options.

This program is available for free to any school that requests it. The program has been correlated to Mississippi 5th grade standards and comes with pre-field trip worksheets. Contact us to schedule your group this spring or fall. Can't come out to the refuge? Contact us to discuss options at your school.

Our first Buds and Birds Trail Tour was a success this morning! Come out tomorrow or next week to participate.
Sign up for May Colt Capers today!

 
Eco Umbrellas Program
Eco Umbrellas
Eco Umbrellas
Eco Umbrellas
Eco Umbrellas
Eco Umbrellas
           
 
           
News this Week - April 15: Come out tomorrow (Friday) for the 7am Birds and Buds Guided Trail Tour at C.L. Dees Trail. Guided by Charlie Delmas, this is a great opportunity to learn about the blooming wildflowers and the migratory birds coming through the area. Not such an early riser? Saturday's tour is at 8am! No reservations needed, no fees.

We have twins! For pair 731 and W-30, both eggs have hatched and the chicks are finding their legs! Click on the thumbnails below to see photos taken by our motion sensored nest cameras.

Nest cam
Nest cam
Nest cam
Nest cam
Nest cam
           
 
           
News this Week - April 14: It's officially the 2010 crane chick season. Click on the photos below to view the pair W-28 and her unbanded mate with their new chick (chick highlighted to the right).

This pair had two eggs, but as is common of many nests, only one egg hatched. This young chick is finding its new legs and getting used to moving around as the parents wait several more days to see if the second egg will hatch.

When a bird nests on the ground, they are quite vulnerable to predators, so these birds (as well as shorebirds, gulls, terns, and many more) are born "precocial". This means that they are able to walk around within hours so that they can stay with their parents. Birds born in more protected spots like caves and trees are born "altricial". These more protected birds can stay in the nest and cheep for the parents to bring them food.

Precocial birds, like cranes, cannot afford to sit on the nest and cry for food, lest they become a snack themselves. They begin learning right away how to find food and stay close to their parents.

Upcoming: Birds and Buds tours on April 16, 17, 23, 24.
Also sign up for May Colt Capers! All events are free!

 
Parent and Chick
Parent Crane
Chick and parent
chick and parents
Chick and parent
Chick with parents
           
 
           

News this Week - April 8: It's a busy time at the refuge. Prescribed burning season is underway and it's also time for refuge biologists to locate crane nests. Currently, eight nests have been found and two nests have already hatched chicks.

When the biologists find the nest, certain protocals are followed and they stay no longer than 12 minutes at a nest with eggs. The task is to take nest and egg measurements, record observations about the nesting site, install a motion-sensor camera nearby and gps the nest.

When it's estimated that a chick should be hatched, biologists return to see if the nest was successful and record new observations and take new measurements. These wild-hatched chicks will remain with their parents and hopefully fledge (take their first flight) at 70-80 days.

Click on the thumbnails below to learn more about nest biology.

 
Chick about to snack on a mealworm
Measuring the Egg
Egg floating
Newly hatched chick
Weighing the chick
2010 Crane Chick
           
 
           

News this Week - April 1: With a reprieve from winter and spring showers, the refuge was able to begin the 2010 prescribed burning season this week. Two prescribed burns have been done so far, 400 acres on Monday and another 267 acres on Wednesday.

In addition to waiting for the land to dry up from the rains, fire ecologists have been monitoring the weather on a scale different from the local forecast. The National Weather Service puts out a fire forecast each morning predicting changes in wind direction and humidity throughout the day as well as a very important feature called the 'mixing height'.

Being in such an urban area, it's important that smoke doesn't descend and cover roads, schools, hospitals and more. The 'mixing height' tells us about how high the smoke will rise before it disperses horizontally.

This height changes throughout the day. Using this and a lot of other information, fire management officers are able to choose the best areas to burn that will be beneficial to the wildlife, as well as safest for neighbors.

 
Helicopter with Bucket
Of course, firefighters don't only take the weather from the NWS each morning, weather is constantly monitored throughout the day, both from regional sources and from right at the site of the fire with handheld weather kits. Fire management officers have to be ready to react to any changes in the weather and decide if it's good to continue with the prescription or if it's time to wrap up the operations for the day.

The helicopter seen above is an important tool used by fire management officers to help put water and heat on the fire. The hanging bucket allows firefighters to put large amounts of water in places where engines cannot go. Other helicopter tools help firefighters ignite the inner areas after firefighters on the ground have secured the edges of the burn area. Learn more about prescribed fire here.Click on the images below to open larger photos.

Watching the Fire Lines
Aerial Ignitions
Smoke Column
Assessing the fire
Heavy  Equipment on the fireline
           
 
           

March 26: Finding cranes becomes a bit more difficult in nesting season. Pairs spend time together in their territories, near the nest and someone is always sitting there babysitting the eggs to protect them from overheating and from predators.

The refuge monitors each nest it finds with a motion sensor camera to study the pair and record any predators seen nearby. Click on the photos below to see more of some of the photos taken from the nest cams.

Come by the visitor center to see more undercover photos of the cranes. Also, sign up for April Colt Capers today!

 
Crane about to Land
Crane looking at camera
Crane Chick
Crane calling
Crane egg
Crane grooming
           
 
           

News this Week - March 17: Cranes generally mate for life, spending the year foraging, roosting and loafing around with their mate. When nesting season begins, it becomes apparant which pairs have a nest because biologists start seeing only one member of the pair where they used to see both.

Finding those nests can be much harder than you'd imagine. Their flat platform nests are camoflouged in the savannas and ponds in what can easily be 200-300 acre territories.

The first nest of the year was found Friday in the Ocean Springs unit of the refuge. The pair is a female called W-28 and an unbanded male. This is a new pair as W-28's mate, 961, was found predated last summer. W-28 has had successful nests in the past, so biologists have high hopes for this nest.

In the photo to the right, you can see a red thermos. Biologists use a special floating technique to age the eggs. These eggs were estimated at about 12 days old. With only a 30 day incubation period, we may have our first chicks of the year soon!

Also pictured to the right is biologist Scott Hereford with Japanese biologist Takami Kitigawa. Dr. Kitigawa visited the refuge last week to observe the Mississippi sandhill cranes.

 
Dr. Kitigawa at West Cottonmouth Nest

Sponsored by the Yamashita Institute of Ornithology (Japan) and the International Crane Foundation (as a Research Associate), he is in the USA for a year-long research project comparing time budgets of cranes in several locations.

Sign up today for April Colt Capers by emailing mississippisandhillcrane@fws.gov or calling 228-497-6322, ext 107. We will be learning about birds in April!

 
           
Hotwings Unison Calling to Jeremy


News this Week - March 12: Science is a continuing effort to discover and increase knowledge through research. In its simplest form, students across the country participate in science fairs, asking questions such as “What happens when I do this?” and “How will things change if I try this?” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prides itself upon being a scientific entity continually looking for new and more effective ways to protect wildlife and habitat.

When the Mississippi sandhill crane population was found to be only 30-35 birds, the big question was “How can we help this population avoid extinction?” In addition to protecting their last acres of habitat from being developed, creative minds came together and created a process of raising cranes in captivity, using parent birds and puppets, and then releasing those birds back into the wilds of gulf coast Mississippi. This was so successful that today the population is up to 110 wild cranes.

Recently, the question was again asked “Is there something different we can try to help the Mississippi sandhill crane population increase and recover?” A new approach is being taken this nesting season where two pairs of captive cranes will be brought to the refuge to raise their chicks in separate 2 acre pens. The pens should protect the young colts from predators as they grow, plus they will have the advantage of being raised by crane parents in a much bigger area than in they would get in true captivity.

The idea came from a wild pair that chose to nest inside one of the pens a couple years ago. They were successful in raising their chick in the pen, protected from predators. As it is impossible to coerce other wild crane pairs to choose pens as their territories, biologists decided to bring in captive cranes and see how successful they were in the pens.

Yesterday, one pair was brought to the refuge and released into one of the pens. The adult male, dubbed ‘Jeremy’ is the only Mississippi sandhill crane to survive a car collision on I-10. Unfortunately, the accident busted his wing, making him incapable of flight. Since 2002, he has been living in captivity raising young in a 50-80ft pen. Jeremy is a 20yr old crane and the 2 acre pen (approx 84,000 square feet) he’s now in is actually part of his old territory when he lived wild at the refuge.

His mate ‘Hotwings’ was brought with him. We are eagerly watching to see them claim their new home and soon build a nest. This is just another step in researching what works in the recovery efforts of this endangered species.

These captive-reared cranes are just an addition to what Mother Nature is doing on her own in the savannas of gulf coast Mississippi. Right now, wild crane pairs are building their nests and preparing to raise their young. Young cranes are a solid light brown/cinnamon color and if this year is the same as the last few, you may find opportunities to see them walking and feeding on the sides of Hwy 57 and other places around the county this summer  (drive carefully!).

To learn more about the cranes and the recovery efforts over the last 40+ years, visit the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR visitor center between the hours of 9am and 3pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Entry to the refuge is free.

           
 
           

March 9: The 2009 Annual Biological Report for Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge is now available. Download here.

Sign up today for April Colt Capers by calling 228-497-6322, ext 107 or email MississippiSandhillCrane@FWS.gov. We'll be learning about Birds!

           
 
           
February 25: The Summer Internship application date for Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR has been extended. Students enrolled in college should check out the Student Temporary Employment Program flyer.
           
 
           

News this Week - February 23: To repeat the phrase from last week: 'It's that time of year again!' Crane pairs have been seen doing territorial displays and unison calling as they prepare to nest.

The wet winter weather may delay actual nesting, but soon some early nesters should be well underway building nests and getting ready for 30 days of incubation. Mouse over the photo to the right to show the crane sitting on the nest. These cranes are well camoflouged to nest in the savanna or in ponds. Biologists have to look carefully to find the cranes and their nests.

Sign up today for March Colt Capers - We'll be talking about cranes!

 
           
 
           

News this Week - February 11: It's that time of year again and as soon as things dry up a bit from the wet winter weather, we are planning to begin the 2010 prescribed fire season. Prescribed fire is an invaluable tool where fires are intentionally planned, set, and extinguished under carefully prescribed conditions of wind, humidity, temperature, and other atmospheric conditions to ensure a safe and successful burn.

Fire ecologists burn for many reasons, two of which are 1) to protect local communities from wildfires and 2) to restore healthy ecosystems such as the wet pine savanna used by the Mississippi sandhill cranes. By definition, the wet pine savanna should be a grassland with widely scattered trees (traditionally longleaf pine). The savanna of coastal Mississippi is home to some of the greatest diversity of plants in the entire United States - sometimes more than 40 plant species in a single square meter plot. Historically, the wet pine savanna stretched from Louisiana to Florida. Today, only 3% of the savanna remains and fire is a critical element to keep the remaining savanna acres healthy.

Prescribed fire is beneficial for people too. In the hands of highly skilled professionals, prescribed fire reduces hazardous accumulations of brush and other vegetation that can be fuel for uncontrolled wildfires during dry and windy weather. To cut down on smoke dispersion, atmospheric conditions are closely monitored to ensure that smoke will blow away from nearby highways, neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and other sensitive areas. Yet even in favorable conditions, the air may still be smoky. Most prescribed fires take only part of a day. On rare occasions, a burn continues into the night. Some smoke may linger in the area of a burn for a day or two.

The fire crew at the refuge will conduct prescribed burns as conditions allow, but Refuge firefighters are also involved in off-refuge support of local fire departments and the Mississippi Forestry Commission. Refuge firefighters also deploy throughout the nation in support of wildfire suppression operations in other regions. Learn more about prescribed fire.

Sign up for March Colt Capers today!

 
Prescribed Fire
           
 
           
Mardi Gras Float


News this Week - February 4: Mississippi Sandhill Crane and Grand Bay NWRs participated in the Ocean Springs day parade last Saturday. We are happy to be a part of such great communities across the coast!

Volunteers and interns were such a great help in pulling the event together - come be a part of all we're doing at the refuge. We're still accepting applications for interns and volunteers! We also still have space in our February Colt Capers - this weekend - Friday and Saturday! Fun, free activity for 3-5 year olds - Call today!

           
 
           

News this Week - January 26: Employment opportunities at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR on-line at USAJobs. Direct links to the Engineering Equipment Operator and Forestry Technician (Fire).

Still available spaces in Colt Capers - sign up today!

 
           

News this Week - January 14: Still time and space to sign up for crane tours and February Colt Capers. Sign up today!

The first crane of the 09-10 trapping season was caught on Monday. Biologists trap the cranes for a variety of reasons. Most importantly is to put radio transmitters on nesting pairs to help biologists locate and protect their nests. Younger cranes need bands so that biologists know where they're roosting and feeding.

Radio transmitters come in two types. Pictured to the right are leg radio bands. The refuge also uses backpack transmitters with longer lasting batteries. Each bird is banded with their own unique color band combination. The birds who receive radio transmitters have radios on individual frequencies, so that biologists can know who is nearby even without a visual.

One of the techniques used for trapping cranes is using special sets of nooses. About 100 small nooses are connected and set out in the area to be trapped. When the crane gets their leg caught in the noose, it isn't held to the ground, which would be damaging to its legs. Biologists rush to capture the crane and remove it from the chain of nooses.

After the crane is caught, new bands and a radio can be put on them. Biologists also draw blood from some birds for genetic studies. Watch short videos of setting out nooses and putting on a colored leg band.

 
Boxes of Banding Equipment
 
           
January 12 - New Colt Capers schedule on-line now! New for 2010, includes a Friday and a Saturday each month. Bring your kids ages 3-5 yrs to learn about nature in this fun, free program! More Info
           
 
           

January 7 - News this Week: Crane tours started this week. Sign up today for Winter Crane Tours in January and February. Dates are filling up quickly - View the available dates here.

Internship Opportunity: Our Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) introduces talented students to the advantages and challenges of working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  It provides opportunities for students to gain valuable work experience that supports the occupational fields of Wildlife Refuge Management, Wildlife Biology, Forestry, Environmental Education and Natural Resources (Outdoor Recreation). Applications due February 12.
More Info

 
Flying  Mississippi Sandhill Cranes
           
 
           

December 23 - News this Week: Sign up today for Winter Crane Tours in January and February. View the available dates here.

This Week: The visitor center will close at noon on Thursday, Dec 24th and will be closed on Friday, December 25th so that staff and volunteers can spend Christmas with their families. We will be open on Saturday, December 26th for our normal hours, 9am - 3pm.

Next Week: We will be closed at noon on Thursday, Dec 31st and closed on January 1st for New Years Day. We will be open on Saturday, January 2nd for our normal hours, 9am - 3pm.

Bring the family by - enjoy a hike on the nature trails and come inside to see the visitor center. Entry is free. Map and directions

 
Visitor Center Exhibits
           
 
           

December 19 - News this Week: Sign up today for Winter Crane Tours in January and February. View the available dates here.

More than just cranes use the savanna. Biologists this week were involved in the 2009 Christmas Bird Count as well as the first of our Winter Grassland Bird Surveys. Among those observed during the survey were a Henslow's sparrow, LeConte's sparrow, sedge wren, savanna sparrow, and common snipe.

Biologists walk the savanna in a sort of 'out-of-the-ordinary' fashion. Two of them are equipped with long bamboo sticks to help move the grasses along a transect. A third concentrates with binoculars to identify birds who fly ahead of the sweep. These transects are walked in the Winter and the Spring as birds move into and out of the area with migration. Years of records help us make sure the habitat stays healthy and useful for a multitude of different bird species, as well as track changes in their populations. View a short video here.

 
Henslow's Sparrow in Hand
           
 
           

December 10 - News this Week: We are now taking reservations for the January / February Crane Tours. Make your reservation quick before they fill up! View the available dates here.

Update on the de-brailled cohort - all 6 have had their first flight! Biologists continue to monitor them.

The Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center officially opened this week! Come by and check out the new center this weekend!
More Info


Come by the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR visitor center on Saturday from 9am - 3pm to make your own pinecone bird feeders and popcorn garlands for wildlife!

 
Bird Feeders
           
 
           
Apply by December 15 Hiring Spring/Summer Interns: We are currently taking resumes for our Spring/Summer Internships (March through August). Please see this flyer for more information.
           
 
           
December 2 News This Week: The six cranes released into the acclimation pen in late October became wild and free this week.

While they were in the release pen, the cranes had a wing restraint that kept them from flying out of the pen. Because it was an open-top pen, older cranes were able to fly in and socialize with them. Two older cranes were frequent visitors to the young cranes and one of the direct release birds has stayed near them as well.

Removing the wing restraint means these young cranes can now fly out of the pen - although they don't yet realize their freedom. Since they were reared in captivity and then released with the wing restraint, they have not yet flown. As they stretch their wings, they should quickly realize their new potential.

The cranes will continue to be monitored by refuge biologists and interns. Their unique colored leg bands identify each individual crane. They also all wear radio transmitters to assist the refuge in locating them. Generally, the cranes will return to the pen area at night to roost, venturing out farther each day as they become more familiar with the landscape. (Update: Two of the cranes have been seen outside the pen - it won't be long before they all realize their new ability!)

 
Crane head closeup during debraill

To learn more about these cranes, use the links on the left and visit the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Visitor Center, open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 3pm. Entry to the visitor center is free.

Pictures below are from the release. Click the thumbnails for larger photos. Watch a video of a release.

Herding the cranes
Wing Braill
Cutting the wing restraint
Extended wing
Crane extending it's wing
           
 
           
November 25 - It's the beginning of that season again - Nesting season can start as early as March or April. Cranes mate for life - usually creating their pair bonds at 3 to 4 years old. This short video shows a male attempting to get the attention of a female. Video
           
 
           
November 9 - MSC NWR was featured on Animal Planet On-line! Check out the blog about the cranes!
           
 
           
October 30 News This Week: We brought 10 captive-reared cranes onto the refuge for release to the wild this week. Cranes born in captivity are raised to about 6 months of age and then released at the refuge to join the wild flock of cranes, supplementing the population.

Six of the cranes released this week were reared in captivity at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in Louisiana. Five of these chicks were what we call "puppet reared", raised by humans wearing special costumes to keep the cranes from imprinting on humans and using puppets to socialize and teach the cranes survival skills. The sixth crane was raised by captive parents. The cranes will be a part of an "acclimated release" process where they are placed into an open-topped pen at the refuge where they will spend 30 days getting accustomed to their new life. The pen allows older, wild cranes to fly in and socialize with the young cranes and keeps them safe from predators. After 30 days, the cranes will be recaptured and a temporary wing restraint will be taken off - giving them the full freedom of flight. Usually, the young cranes will slowly expand their home range as they become familiar with the area, increasing their chances of survival.
Banded Crane
           

In addition to those cranes, 4 more cranes were released onto the refuge in a completely different manner. Biologists are continually doing research on the Mississippi sandhill crane populations and how the birds interact with each other, socialize and use their newly learned survival skills in the wild. Cranes brought over from the White Oak Conservation Center were reared by captive parent birds. These birds were released on the refuge in what biologists are calling "direct release". Two of the cranes were released together completely into the wild, without wing restraints or the safety of a temporary pen. These cranes were released near groups of other wild cranes that they will hopefully join and socialize with them. Two other cranes were direct released individually near other groups of cranes. This technique may allow the use of many more sites for release, increasing colonization of newly restored habitats. Biologists are monitoring all 10 of the cranes daily.

All of the cranes released this week are now wearing radio transmitters and unique colored leg band combinations to differentiate them. Refuge staff will monitor the young cranes both visually and by listening for their radio signals. Additionally, about 85% of the older cranes on the refuge have colored leg bands and many have radio transmitters - giving us unique opportunities to learn about how individual birds are thriving in Mississippi. To learn more about these cranes, use the links on the left and visit the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Visitor Center, open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 3pm. Entry to the visitor center is free.

Pictures below are from the release. Click the thumbnails for larger photos.

           
 
           

 

 

 


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Last updated: September 2, 2010