A whooping crane experiment in the Eastern U-S has had its first hatch of eggs from migrating birds. But humans had to help. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
A whooping crane experiment in the Eastern U.S has had its first hatch
of eggs from migrating birds. But humans had to help. The GLRC’s
Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Several migrating cranes laid eggs this spring at the Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, but some eggs broke. So, wildlife
officials scooped up two intact eggs and eventually sent them to a
wildlife center in Maryland. The eggs recently hatched. Wildlife
agencies say it’s a huge step for the effort to create a migrating and
reproducing flock of whoopers in the Eastern U.S.
Joan Garland of the International Crane Foundation says that’s even
though the chicks were not hatched in the wild.
“We did sort of have to help these eggs out a little bit. We did remove
them from the nests and raise them in incubators, but at least they were
produced and part of their life was there in the wild in the nests at
Garland says the two chicks will probably be sent back to the wildlife
refuge this summer, and there, they’ll be taught to fly south.
Researchers began a program to reintroduce whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. in 2000. This winter, some young cranes are learning how to migrate south from older birds. The biologists tracking the birds say so far, the new recruits are catching on. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
Researchers began a program to reintroduce whooping cranes in the
eastern U.S. in 2000. This winter, some young cranes are learning how
to migrate south from older birds. The biologists tracking the birds say
so far, the new recruits are catching on. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports:
At first, humans led the new flock of whooping cranes from Wisconsin
to Florida by flying ultra light planes. Now, some of those birds are
teaching a few younger cranes how to make the trip.
Kelley Tucker is with the International Crane Foundation, one of the
groups involved in the reintroduction project. She says this winter, four
young whooping cranes are flying with older cranes and sandhill cranes
on the migratory path. They’re relying partly on instinct, partly on the
lead of the older birds.
“The birds will be a couple miles apart, but some of the biologists have
said ‘I have a sense that the younger birds know where the older birds
are.’ Sometimes they’ll roost within a mile or two of the older birds.”
Tucker says eventually she hopes all the chicks will learn to migrate
from older birds, and the ultra light planes won’t be used. She says it’s
important for the cranes to make it back to Wisconsin in the spring to
Environmentalists are happy to see that sandhill crane populations are increasing. Some farmers, however, are not. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
At this time of year, one of the nation’s most exotic birds is nesting, and many wildlife lovers are rejoicing. Once close to extinction, the Eastern population of sandhill cranes has grown dramatically. In fact, their numbers are so big that they’re becoming a problem in some places – and there’s talk of starting a hunting season for cranes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandy Hausman has the story:
At this time of year, one of the nation’s most exotic
birds is nesting, and many wildlife lovers are rejoicing. Once
close to extinction, the Eastern population of sandhill cranes
has grown dramatically. In fact, their numbers are so big that
they’re becoming a problem in some places – and there’s talk of
starting a hunting season for cranes. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Sandy Hausman has the story:
(Sound of marsh and birds)
It’s a cool spring morning, just before dawn. Brandon Krueger is watching a stretch of marshland along a country road in Central Wisconsin. Krueger works for the International Crane Foundation. He’s taking part in the annual Midwest crane count. Celebrating its thirtieth year, thousands of volunteers have fanned out across parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa to look and listen for sandhill cranes.
“It’s a great sound to hear when you’re waking up. This is usually the earliest that I ever get up during the year. It’s a real struggle, but it can be worth it – for some of the things that you hear and the opportunity to see cranes.”
(Sound of crane call)
Krueger hears a breeding pair a half a mile away – exchanging what’s known as a unison call. The birds are big – up to five feet tall. A hundred years ago they made easy targets for hunters. In the 1930’s, naturalist Aldo Leopold lamented the loss of cranes – nearly hunted to extinction in Wisconsin. He knew of only 25 breeding pairs of sandhills in the state. But the federal government made it illegal to hunt cranes, and the state started working to restore bird habitat. Today, crane lovers celebrate an impressive comeback.
“I’ve talked with our leading field ecologist and he’s estimated upwards of forty-thousand sandhill cranes in the Midwest area.”
This year’s crane count is still being tallied, but Krueger heard nine birds and saw three flying by.
(Sound of cranes)
In the county next door, Troy Bartz claims to see many more birds than that on a daily basis.
“I’ll come home and it’s nothing for me to see two, three-hundred cranes in a field in one crack.”
Bartz has been farming for 13 years – growing corn, soy beans and alfalfa on nearly a hundred acres near Nina Creek.
(Sound of plow)
“Plants started disappearing out of the field with crane tracks right next to them. They go right down the row and they pull the shoots out of the ground and eat the kernels off the roots. I lose thousands of plants every year.”
The International Crane Foundation says damage in Wisconsin alone could total $100 million, and for family farmers, a year’s profit could be lost.
Bartz: “On the small acreage that I’m tilling, you can’t lose thousands of plants and not have some kind of an impact. That’s hundreds and hundreds of bushels I’m losing.”
Hausman: “And what’s the cash value on that?”
Bartz: “I figure anywhere between two to three-thousand dollars minimum every year.”
Hausman: “So what do you think the answer is?”
Bartz: “Shoot ‘em.”
There is some talk of having a hunting season for cranes, but that would require approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many critics say the eastern population of sandhills is too small to permit hunting. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says there are alternatives for farmers – machines called banger guns that make explosive sounds every few minutes. Troy Bartz’ neighbor, Mel Johnson, tried that, but found the birds quickly got used to the noise.
“The DNR warden brought the guns out. He said the best way is to mix a few regular shells in with it, he said, because it won’t scare ‘em away, the guns. He’s been taking them out for years, and he said they won’t scare any wildlife away – them guns.”
They’ve also tried scarecrows and colored ribbons but they didn’t work either. Farmers have had success with a product called Kernel Guard – a pesticide that made corn seeds taste bad to cranes, but this year the manufacturer stopped making it because one of its active ingredients can be toxic. Crane advocates are now asking the EPA to allow use of another chemical that’s already sprayed on golf courses to repel geese, but approval is not expected this year.
(Sound of cranes)
So crane lovers are keeping their fingers crossed – hoping farmers won’t be breaking the law by shooting the birds.
A baby whooping crane walks toward the camera. (Photo courtesy of the USGS)
Wildlife experts hope an experimental flock of whooping
cranes will lay more eggs this spring. The first egg produced during the experiment was recently found damaged. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Wildlife experts hope an experimental flock of whooping cranes
will lay more eggs this spring. The first egg produced during the
experiment was recently found damaged. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Scientists working on the project to develop 25 nesting pairs of
migrating whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. hope this is the year the
young cranes start to produce offspring.
But Michael Putnam of the
International Crane Foundation says one obstacle to the hatching of
crane eggs may be inexperienced parents.
“Once they do produce a fertile egg, then the birds have to exhibit the
right behaviors to tend the nest, incubate… and we’ve found some of
our birds- The females might be very good incubators at the
beginning, but it may take the male a year or two to catch on that’s
supposed to take a turn sittin’ on the egg.”
Putnam says other difficulties may include predators eating the eggs.
if the birds are successful, it’ll be the first whooping crane egg to
hatch in this part of North America in more than a century.
Eight whooping cranes trying to migrate to their summer home in Wisconsin are now stuck in Michigan. The birds are part of a flock of 36 that have all been hatched in captivity. They’re taught to migrate to Florida in the fall following an ultra-light aircraft. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette reports:
Eight whooping cranes trying to migrate to their summer home in
Wisconsin are now stuck in Michigan. The birds are part of a flock of 36
that have all been hatched in captivity. They’re taught to migrate to
Florida in the fall following an ultra-light aircraft. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Peter Payette reports:
The lost whooping cranes are the newest members of the flock. They
were returning from Florida for the first time. Wildlife officials say the
birds were scared by people in North Carolina who came too close. The
cranes took off, flew at night and got off course.
Now they’re on the wrong side of Lake Michigan and won’t fly over it.
Joan Garland, with the International Crane Foundation, says the cranes
could summer in Michigan and hopefully return to Wisconsin during their
spring migration next year.
“We had a bird for instance, last year, from the 2002 flock that ended up
all summer in Northern Illinois and so we were watching her to see if she was
going to go back to northern Illinois or Wisconsin… it turned out this year,
she did come back to Wisconsin.”
Garland believes the twenty other cranes in the flock made it back to
Wisconsin. There are less than 500 hundred whooping cranes in North America.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Peter Payette.