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Whooping Cranes and Ultralights Heading Through Georgia


January 7, 2008


Liz Condie, Operation Migration, 905-718-1034
Tom MacKenzie, USFWS, 404-679-7291
Kitty Spivey, Georgia DNR WRD, 229-227-5422

Haralson County, Ga. - The ‘cranes and planes’ have made their second hop through Georgia for this year’s migration. The seventeen endangered Whooping crane chicks and their surrogate parents – Operation Migration’s four ultralight aircraft – arrived in Haralson County, about 40 miles west of Atlanta on January 7, 2008. They have flown 854 miles of their 1,260-mile journey from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge along Florida's Gulf Coast.

“This is by far the longest time it has taken us to make the migration,” said Liz Condie of Operation Migration. “We think that the La Niña weather pattern may be the reason the wind patterns have slowed our progress this year.”

The latest the migration had arrived until this year was December 19, 2006, a migration that took 76 days. The migration this year began on October 13, 2007.

“We wish the cranes and the hard working pilots and crew of Operation Migration a safe journey on this, the longest duration migration so far,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Re-establishing this Eastern migratory population moves us another step closer to recovering this magnificent bird. With the great support of conservationists and the expertise of Operation Migration and the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), we are proving again success can be achieved.”

On the next legs of the migration, Operation Migration’s ultralights will lead the ‘Class of 2007’ through Georgia, with stopovers in Pike and Terrell Counties; some of the many preplanned stopovers the ultralight migration crew use along the migration route to allow the pilots and birds to rest between flights. They will then enter Florida for the final push toward their migration destination at the Service's Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Arrival or departure flyover viewing opportunities in Pike and Terrell Counties will be posted to Operation Migration’s website Field Journal at

On the verge of extinction in the 1940s, today, there are only about 350 Whooping cranes in the wild, 59 of them in the Eastern Migration Population. This is the result of work by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that, since 2001 has been reintroducing Whooping cranes to their historic range.

For more information about WCEP visit
For more information on the 2007 ultralight-led migration visit
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