Jun
29
2006

A Whooping Crane milestone in the Midwest

Whooping Cranes: Whooping cranes.  Photo courtesy Hedgeman.
Whooping Cranes: Whooping cranes. Photo courtesy Hedgeman.

On June 22, two whooping crane chicks hatched at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. These are the first wild chicks that have hatched in the Midwest in over 100 years.

The two chicks are offspring of a pair of whooping cranes that are a part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), a collaboration of non-profit organizations, individuals and government agencies whose goal is to bring a migratory flock of whooping cranes back to eastern North America. The hatching of these two chicks is a major milestone in this effort.

Whooping Crane Migration

Operation Migration teaches a migratory route to endangered birds. To do so, they raise young whooping cranes in isolation, which then fledge over their future breeding territory in Wisconsin. When the time comes to migrate, they follow an ultralight aircraft from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Once they have learned the migratory route they migrate on their own the following year.

Whooping Cranes Migrating: Because of Operation Migration whooping cranes can make the migratory flights south in the fall and north in the spring on their own.  Photo courtesy thelastminute.
Whooping Cranes Migrating: Because of Operation Migration whooping cranes can make the migratory flights south in the fall and north in the spring on their own. Photo courtesy thelastminute.
Reintroduction of an endangered species

Wild whooping cranes are an endangered species that before this project only existed in the wild in two flocks. One is a non-migratory flock in Florida and the other is a migratory flock that summers in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and winters at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. The National Audubon Society's 2006 list of the top ten endangered birds in the United States lists the whooping crane third behind the ivory-billed woodpecker and California condor.

Due to the risk of both of the natural flocks being wiped out by a single event such as a hurricane, an additional, experimental, flock of whooping cranes was established in the fall 2001. 64 of the 76 birds released for this experimental migratory flock have survived to April, 2006.

And now we can add two more to that population count.

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It is great to see one of the previously most endangered birds recovering and breeding once again areas they have not in decades.

posted on Tue, 10/03/2006 - 7:06pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think it is great

posted on Wed, 02/14/2007 - 9:14am

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