A flock of endangered whooping cranes has successfully made it to wintering grounds in Florida. The birds were led by an ultralight plane and costumed handlers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A flock of endangered whooping cranes has successfully made it to wintering grounds in Florida. The birds were led by an ultra-light plane and costumed handlers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
In an effort to help the endangered whooping cranes establish a new migration route, wildlife experts trained the flock to follow an ultra-light plane. The migration started in Wisconsin with a flock of eight young whooping cranes. One refused to stay with the flock and ended up being driven in a van to Florida. One bird hit a power line and was killed. But six whooping cranes made the entire trip. Chuck Underwood with the National Fish and Wildlife Service says unlike previous trips with more cooperative Sandhill cranes, whooping cranes turned out to be extremely independent.
“It was a guess any given day which bird might decide to break off and do his own thing. So, that was a challenge all the way down.”
Wildlife managers say the birds will find their own way back to Wisconsin in the spring. Hopefully it will begin a regular migration pattern, the second of wild whooping cranes in North America.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Lester Graham.
Ten whooping crane chicks that may go on a historic flight through part of the Midwest this fall are about to start flying lessons. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Ten whooping crane chicks that may go on a historic flight through part of the Midwest this fall are about to start flying lessons. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports.
Public and private sector wildlife experts are trying to set up the first migrating flock of whooping cranes in the Eastern U.S. the plan is to have the birds learn their migration route this October by following ultra-light aircraft from Wisconsin to Florida. Ten two-month old whooping crane chicks have just finished the first step of the experiment at a federal wildlife center in Maryland. Joan Guilfoyle of the u-s fish and wildlife service says the chicks went through ground school.
“Right from coming out of the egg they were exposed to sounds of ultra light engines, being able to see people in costumes disguised as adult whoopers, so they would begin to associate their care and protection with those two things.”
Now the crane chicks have been brought by private plane to
Wisconsin, where ultra light pilots wearing crane costumes will give the birds flying lessons. Many of the same people worked on a test migration with smaller but more plentiful sandhill cranes last year. Guilfoyle says there are some behavioral differences between sandhills and whoopers.
“One of them is sandhills tend to migrate in groups more than whoopers…so we will learn the right number to group…may be all ten of them together or they may end up in two groups.”
A century ago, it’s believed about one thousand whooping cranes roamed parts of North America. Today, the species is endangered. The only remaining migrating flock of whoopers numbers about one hundred and seventy five. That flock spends its summers in Canada, before heading to Texas for the winter. If the human-assisted migration in Wisconsin is successful this fall, scientists hope to continue the reintroduction. And they say they could have as many as 25 breeding pairs of whooping cranes living in the Wisconsin to Florida flock within the next ten years.” For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.