Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

September 10, 2001

The Most-Asked Question

Expected Migration Route

From Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, lead pilot Joe Duff writes: "All summer long our planned departure date has been the most asked question. The Migration team wants to know because many are volunteers and must schedule time off; the Health Team must perform the pre-migration medical examination; the Outreach Team is working on a departure event and all the bird watchers along the route are anxious to know what date we will be passing over their home town.

"So far our answer has been as general as the month of October. Anything more accurate would have been only a guess. To allow more time for the Regulatory Team to steer the approval process through Washington, we used eggs from a later hatch period. This put us behind from the start, and to further complicate the matter, whooping cranes are slower to mature than sandhills, taking longer to fledge. Referring to our notes from last year [the trial run for this migration experiment with non-endangered sandhill cranes], it would appear that we are a month behind; however, once fledged, whooping cranes develop faster and their flight endurance increases rapidly when the weather cools.

"Many things must happen before we depart Wisconsin and how long they will take is pure speculation. Our health check is scheduled for September 11 and the birds will be fitted with tracking devices at the same time. It is certain they will not be pleased with us for a few days and not likely to follow the aircraft well. We raised the chicks in two small cohorts of 5 birds each at separate locations a mile apart. Last week, we brought them together for the first time and it will be a while before they begin to socialize and establish the proper dominance order. Their flight endurance now is around 8 minutes but it is hard to say how long it will be before they can fly for 50 miles at a time.

"For now, we will have to keep our answers vague but if all goes well, maybe by early October, we will be headed south."

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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