November 13, 2003
Reintroduced Eastern Whooping Cranes Begin Unassisted Fall Migration
The first wild whooping cranes to fly over eastern North America in more
than a century began their unassisted fall migration late last week ?
notching another milestone in the recovery of this most endangered of
birds are part of an effort by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
to establish a wild migrating flock of whooping cranes in eastern North
Central Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, as well as state
lands managed by the Wisconsin DNR, county and private wetlands in
Wisconsin, served as "summer homes" for many of these 20 whooping
A few individuals visited or spent the summer in eastern Minnesota and
northern Illinois, and three of the females wandered as far as South Dakota
before being returned to the reintroduction area.
In the fall of 2001 and 2002, after being conditioned by pilots and
biologists to follow ultralight aircraft, these cranes were led south
Operation Migration pilots to their "winter home" at Chassahowitzka
Florida's Gulf coast. Both national wildlife refuges are managed by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
All 20 have flown the Florida-Wisconsin flyway unassisted at least once.
The birds from the "Class of 2001" are making the southbound
trip on their
own for the second time.
The wild cranes migrate in small groups or by themselves and are expected
to follow essentially the same migration route as in previous years, which
can take them over parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and
Georgia before reaching their winter home at Chassahowitzka. Their
southward migration can take anywhere from a week to more than a month.
Last year the first wild crane to migrate south unassisted, "Lucky
7" of the Class of 2001, made the journey in just over a week.
International Crane Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
biologists are tracking the wild cranes as they migrate. Updates on their
progress are available on the Web at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.
A third ultralight-led flock of 16 juvenile whooping cranes departed
Wisconsin on Oct. 16. This migration is currently at a stopover site in
Kentucky. Several of the reintroduced wild whoopers are not far behind
It is not unusual for the previous years' birds to catch up with their
ultralight-led cohorts. Last year, birds from the "Class of 2001"
appeared at one of the ultralight stopover sites and accompanied the
juveniles and their aircraft guides for a short time before continuing
their own. The ultralight-led migration is expected to take approximately
The reintroduction goal is to establish a migrating flock of 125
birds--including 25 breeding pairs--in eastern North America by 2020.
The whooping crane chicks that take part in the reintroduction project
hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
in Laurel, Maryland.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is a consortium of non-profit
organizations and government agencies. Founding members are the
International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration Inc., Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.
Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife
Health Center, International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, National Fish
and Wildlife Foundation, and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.
Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation
groups have joined forces with and support the partnership by donating
resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the estimated
$1.8 million budget comes from private sources in the form of grants,
donations and corporate sponsors.
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).
2001-2003 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form