Whooping crane flyover, Parrish, AL December 2008. Operation Migration led young whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida every autumn.

5 comments so far...

Sonja June 02, 2017, 10:38 AM
Cool shot!

"Led" and not "lead"??? So they got adult cranes meanwhile to to the job alone or are there less cheery reasons?

Ron Losure June 03, 2017, 12:09 AM
You understand correctly, Sonja. This was a program to train whooping crane chicks to follow these little airplanes so they could be shown the way from Wisconsin to western Florida. The route passed through Alabama a couple of hours from my house, so I tried to go see them whenever they went by. I think I saw them only twice. The program was discontinued in 2015. Here is the official statement:

Between 2001 – 2015, Operation Migration pilots used ultralight aircraft and played the role of surrogate parents to guide captive-hatched and imprinted Whooping cranes along a planned migration route, which began in Wisconsin and ended in Florida.

In early 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the aircraft-guided method was too “artificial” and that cranes raised by costumed handlers, missed early learning opportunities. As a result, it was speculated that they did not properly nurture or protect their chicks when they had their own offspring. It was suggested that this inattentiveness was the cause of high pre-fledge mortality at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exercised its authority over the Endangered Species Act and ended the aircraft-guided reintroduction method.

Marvin Matthews June 03, 2017, 03:03 PM
Having lived in Nebraska for a time, I remember it well, as it is a stopover and home to many Whooping cranes. I believe the cranes are doing better now and coming up in numbers. Great birds, and thanks for the pix.
Ron Losure June 03, 2017, 04:36 PM
Thanks, Marvin. In the last ten years or so, a group of sandhill cranes has begun coming to Alabama for the winter instead of passing through Nebraska. A few whooping cranes usually accompany the sandhills.
Marvin Matthews June 03, 2017, 09:39 PM
Alabama's gain !
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