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Hooray For Hatchlings!
First Hatchlings for Florida's Non-migratory Flock

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) broke this exciting news on March 29, 2000!

WHOOPING CRANE REINTRODUCTION PRODUCES ITS FIRST HATCHLINGS

When you're trying to save an endangered species from extinction, success sometimes comes in baby steps. Florida's attempts to reintroduce whooping cranes yielded its first two hatchlings March 16-18, and wildlife biologists are ecstatic over this first indication that the project can succeed.

To protect the young birds, researchers are keeping the location of their nest confidential, but it's somewhere in central Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the International Crane Foundation undertook the reintroduction project in 1993.

Researchers have released 183 whooping cranes into the wild during the past seven years. Mortality was high at first, but 65 of the birds are still alive...67 counting the new chicks.

In April 1999, state and federal wildlife biologists were encouraged when they found two fist-sized, beige eggs with brown splotches in one of the whooping crane nests. The eggs indicated that wild whoopers had finally nested in the United States for the first time this century--possibly for the first time ever in Florida.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the eggs vanished a few days later. Much of parenting is a learned process in whooping cranes, and biologists expect losses of eggs and chicks as new whooping crane parents learn the skills it requires of them.

"We've had better luck this year (2000)," said wildlife biologist Brian Millsap. "We have confirmed two hatchlings. We also have 14 other pairs of whoopers under observation."

Millsap said the first 10-14 days after hatching are dangerous times for hatchlings. He said mortality rates among hatchlings level off after that until the hatchlings learn to fly when they are about 75 days old.

"By the time they are about 90 days old, they will have about the same mortality rate as the parents," he said. "Scientists expect the chicks to remain with the parents for one year."

Both parent birds are tagged to enable researchers to track their movements and behavior. Scientists do not plan to tag the chicks until after they are grown.

Whooping cranes are an endangered species, although the Florida population is designated as experimental due to its reintroduced status and to facilitate management of the flock. Wildlife officials hope to down-list the species to "threatened species" status by

  • establishing 25 nesting pairs of wild whoopers in Florida;
  • maintaining at least 40 nesting pairs in the only remaining wild population that nests in Manitoba, Canada; and
  • establishing another 25 nesting pairs in another location.


Partners in the Florida project plan to continue releasing 19-48 whoopers per year until the whooping crane population in Florida stabilizes at 100-125.


Try This! Journaling Questions

1. Why do you think wildlife officials have planned to establish whooping cranes as described : establishing 25 nesting pairs of wild whoopers in Florida; maintaining at least 40 nesting pairs in the only remaining wild population that nests in Manitoba, Canada; and establishing another 25 nesting pairs in another location? What benefits are gained by having the new populations in widely separated geographic locations?

2.What might be some predators or dangers for whooping cranes in Florida?

3. What eventually happened to these chicks?


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