Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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New Class of Whooping Crane Chicks Arrives at Necedah NWR
Midwest Region, June 26, 2003
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A flock of whooping crane chicks arrived by private airplane at central Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge June 19. A field team from Operation Migration, Inc., the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will spend the summer conditioning the chicks to fly behind ultralight aircraft. This fall the team will guide the young cranes on their first southern migration, leading them by ultralights flown by Operation Migration pilots over Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia before arriving at Chassahowitzka NWR on Florida's Gulf coast, the cranes? winter home.

They will be the third group of juvenile whooping cranes to take part in a project designed to reintroduce a migratory flock of this endangered bird to a portion of its former range in eastern North America. The project is led by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a consortium of non-profit organizations and government agencies.

The chicks were flown to Necedah from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, where they hatched. While the reintroduction project this year will take place with up to 18 cranes, only the 10 oldest crane chicks arrived that day. The remaining cranes were transported later in June to Necedah, one of 540 national wildlife refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At Patuxent, the whooping cranes are introduced to Operation Migration ultralight aircraft and raised in isolation from humans. To ensure the birds remain wild, project biologists and pilots adhere to a no-talking rule, play recorded crane calls and wear costumes designed to mask the human form when they are around the cranes. Biologists from the International Crane Foundation and Fish and Wildlife Service will monitor the cranes over the winter and track them next spring during their return migration, which they will undertake unaided by ultralights.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, on behalf of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, distributed a press release on the cranes' arrival. The release generated substantial interest from media in Wisconsin, Florida and all along the cranes' seven-state eastern flyway.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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