Whooping cranes and an ultralight: Because of Operation Migration, now in its fifth year, 40 adult birds in the flock now make the migratory flights south in the fall and north in the spring on their own. Photo © Operation Migration

Whooping crane: An adult whooping crane (Photo courtesy USGS)

On Friday, a group of endangered whooping cranes took to the skies, migrating from Necedah, Wisconsin, to their winter habitat in Florida—1,200 miles away.

The 20 cranes, which were hatched and raised in captivity, have to be taught to migrate. (Whooping cranes learned their migration route by following their parents, but the knowledge was lost when the population dwindled and no wild birds used the flyway.) So Operation Migration's pilots in ultralight planes lead the birds south.

The birds' route takes them from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, in Wisconsin, to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Read the Operation Migration field journal to see where the flock is today and what's been happening to them.

(The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, which also helps to raise endangered whooping cranes, has links to lots more resources.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Brandon Voelker's picture
Brandon Voelker says:

WOW! Thats amazing

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 9:59am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Windy weather in Tennessee grounded the migrating whooping cranes for a few days, but they're moving again, heading for their wintering ground in Florida.

Migrating is slow going for these guys. They started on October 14th, and they've got a way to go yet!

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 10:02am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Biologists think that a pair of whooping cranes in Wisconsin have produced a chick. If it's true, the chick is the first to hatch in the wild in more than 100 years!

Scientists are watching the birds' behavior, and they're hopeful. But they can't get close enough to confirm the chick's (or chicks') existence without disturbing the parents.

And last month, two whooping cranes conceived in the wild hatched in captivity. (Keepers incubated the eggs at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, and another facility in Maryland, after the parent birds proved to be less-than-diligent.

In 1941, whooping cranes hovered at the brink of extinction, with only 20 birds in the world. With the help of programs like Operation Migration, the migratory population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States has grown to 60 birds. (There is another flock--about 200 birds--that flies from Canada to Texas each year.)

Each chick matters!

posted on Sat, 06/24/2006 - 9:37am
Mississippi River Gallery's picture
Mississippi River Gallery says:

Not sure what a whooping crane looks like? Stop by the middle of the River Gallery to see 3 specimens!

posted on Sat, 06/24/2006 - 11:14am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options