Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office

Midwest Region


Wisconsin Field Office

2661 Scott Tower Drive
Green Bay, WI 54229-9565
Phone: 920-866-1717
Fax: 920-866-1710
TTY: 1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay)

e-mail: GreenBay@fws.gov


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Whooping Crane (Grus americana)


Adult whooping crane pair with two juvenile whooping cranes.

Young captive-bred whoopings are released near adult wild whooping cranes as part of the "Direct Autmn Release" protocol.

Photo by USFWS; Richard Urbanek

Reintroducing whooping cranes back to Wisconsin began in 2000. The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team recommended the establishment of additional populations to safeguard against extinction. Therefore, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) was formed of non-profit organizations, individuals and government agencies; all joining forces to bring a migratory population of whooping cranes back to eastern North America. Achievement of this mission will bring the whooping crane closer to recovery from its current status as a species in danger of extinction. There are now around 100 whooping cranes in the Eastern migratory population as a result of WCEP’s efforts.


Whooping cranes being released in this reintroduction project come from captive whooping crane flocks that are raised by project personnel under strict protocols designed to prevent the chicks from imprinting on humans.


Whooping Crane reintroduction began by conditioning them to follow ultralight aircraft in preparation for their fall migration to wintering grounds in Florida. Every year since 2001, a class of cranes has been led on their first migration south from Wisconsin to Florida’s Gulf Coast.


Beginning in 2005 the ultralight-led migration was supplemented with a second reintroduction technique called Direct Autumn Release (DAR). Young cranes are released in small groups with wild whooping cranes, with the intent that they will learn the migration route from these older, more experienced birds.


With a migration route established, in early 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service moved the WCEP reintroduction project from ultralight migration into a new phase: Parent-Rearing (PR), with the intent to minimize human interaction and artificiality with the captive-reared birds as much as possible and to produce released whooping cranes that have spent more time learning from adult parent birds than is possible with traditional costume rearing techniques.


Whooping Crane Species Profile


Endangered Species Act Process that Established the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project


WCEP Website:


Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership - This site has detailed and current information about the whooping crane reintroduction project.


Wisconsin Whooping Crane Management Plan - Wisconsin DNR




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Last updated: June 21, 2017