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Whooping cranes in Tennessee. Credit: Operation Migration.

Whooping cranes arrive in Tennessee

2014 Cohort Arrived by Truck Today

Seven young whooping cranes are making their way south in their first migration from Wisconsin, being led by costumed pilots in ultralight aircraft.  But the weather isn’t cooperating, and after making only 52 miles in 34 days, the migration team decided to use ground transportation to move the cranes into Tennessee and more favorable migration conditions.

The seven young whooping cranes started their southward journey on October 10, 2014, from the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County, near Princeton, Wisconsin.

The cranes normally fly the 1,200 mile migration route following the Ultra-lights.  This method can take 75 or more days to complete due to the daily flight limitations of the Ultra-lights. 

This plan to transport this year’s group of cranes 600 miles by vehicle is the longest segment of the migration route that will not be flown by the cranes since the initiation of this reintroduction in 2001. 

The effects of not flying such a large section of the migration route are unknown, but Heather Ray of Operation Migration is hopeful.

 “We’ve had several examples of young birds linking up with older cranes,”  said Ray, who coordinates logistics and outreach for Operation Migration.  “These cranes spent a lot of time flying in Wisconsin before this migration began, so we are hopeful they will return there next spring.”

The group plans to resume the second half of the migration on Sunday morning or when weather permits.  The route from central Tennessee angles across Alabama and across southwest Georgia towards Tallahassee, Florida, before reaching the winter release site at  St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, on the Gulf Coast of Florida south of Tallahassee. 

The public can keep track of the migration at http://operationmigration.org/InTheField/.  When coverage allows, a live videofeed from their temporary holding pen “cranecam” at: http://operationmigration.org/cranecam.asp.  A live feed while they are in the air is also available most flights.

Want to actually see them in a flyover this Sunday? 

Plan to wake up early and bring some hot coffee, because they depart about 10 minutes before sunrise.  The viewing site is at the junction of Price Road and Long Rock Church Road outside the town of Huntingdon, Tenn.  Check out the available locations for specific legs of the trip at: http://operationmigration.org/public-viewing-opportunities-for-operation-migration.asp   All these flights are weather-dependent, so check the field journal the night before.

This group of seven will bring the total eastern population to 104 whooping cranes.  The objective is to build a flock with at least 25 breeding pairs.

These seven cranes will be joining 97 whooping cranes in the eastern population (54 males, 43 females). As of Nov. 5, there were 56 in Wisconsin, 21 in Indiana, three in Illinois, three in Kentucky, three in Alabama, nine at unknown locations, one not recently reported and one long term missing.  They can fly hundreds of miles in a day, so that snapshot may have changed greatly by now.

Florida has about 15 in a non-migratory flock.  Louisiana has a project underway for a non-migratory flock of 26 whooping cranes.  The western flock has about 300 cranes, and about 130 are in captivity.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

Contacts

Phil Kloer, USFWS
404-679-7299
phillip_kloer@fws.gov

Heather Ray, Operation Migration
920-573-0905 
heather@operationmigration.org

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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