Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Birds

This chick will get a permanent leg band at about 7 months of age .

Naming System for DAR Chicks
Each Eastern flock bird—whether ultralight-led, DAR, or wild-hatched—has a number that becomes its lifelong "name." The number tells something about the bird. For DAR birds, the first digits stands for the order in which these chicks hatched. The last two digits stand for the hatch year (2006). So, #26-06 was the 26th chick to hatch in 2006. Gaps in the number system happen when a chick dies. Gaps also happen if a chick with valuable genetics is removed from the flock and kept as a breeding bird, or if a bird gets sent to a new home (zoo, etc.) because of health problems.

Meet the 2006 DAR chicks! #26-06, # 27-06, #28-06, #30-06, #32-06.

Birth Place
The chicks for this direct autumn release were raised at ICF’s new isolation-rearing facility. The eggs are from birds at ICF or other places with captive cranes. The valuable eggs hatch in the care of experts. The eggs and chicks are carefully watched over.
Eggs from captive whooping cranes
Costumed trainers use crane puppets to help raise the DAR chicks .

Marianne Wellington raises the DAR chicks with other helpers.
Photo ICF

Release Site
When they were about one month old, the birds were transferred to the Necedah NWR. Marianne Wellington is a chick-rearing specialist. She wore a costume and raised the chicks there. They fledge (fly) at around 70 days of age. Unlike their cousins for the ultralight-led migration, the DAR chicks are allowed to roam freely on the refuge when they are a few months old. Marianne and other costumed "parents" check on them many times during the day. At night the chicks are safe in a big pen with a pond and a net over the top. In October, the chicks are set free on the refuge near the adult whooping cranes. If all goes as planned, they'll follow the older whoopers (or sandhill cranes) on the journey south. That's how they will first learn their migration route.

Over-wintering Site
In October the DAR chicks will follow some adult cranes leaving for the Eastern flock's winter home in Florida. Most of them stay around Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, where they normally spend their first winter. Here the DAR chicks will see older whooping cranes who also migrated from Wisconsin.

The Eastern flock's winter home
A view from the sky
Wild and free


Leg-band Codes
Every crane in the new Eastern flock wears unique color-coded leg bands on one leg. Like names for humans, the banding codes identify each crane for life. Experts keep detailed histories on each of these endangered birds. The DAR chicks get their permanent bands before they are set free in Wisconsin to follow the older cranes when they leave in October.

Each bird also wears green-over-white radio transmitter bands on one leg. They can be tracked with those radio frequencies. A few birds will get still another band and transmitter--this one a PTT for satellite tracking. For more information, see Tracking Cranes. Like other members of the new Eastern flock, the 2006 chicks are expected to migrate back to Wisconsin in the spring, every spring for the rest of their lives.

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).