Archive for November, 2009

Whooping Crane Migration

A few years ago, you could not get me to believe what you will see here.  The whooping crane is a bird that was all but extent.  At one time they numbered somewhere around 15 .  Man hunted them for their feathers and they were all but gone.

DSC_0083 dancer whooper_blogThere has been a group working to bring them back to a sustainable number.  http://www.operationmigration.org/   There numbers now are about 200 in captivity and 200 in the wild.  That gives them a count of about 400 now.  The group will take eggs delivered in captivity and raise them after they hatch.  The goal is to do this will as little human imprint as possible.  During their time working with them, they teach them to feed and live.  They will wear cloths to hid human features and spend their time with the whoopers without talking.

Even after learning to forage the cranes would not survive without human intervention.  The human parents teach them to play with ultra-light planes also know as Trikes.  When migration comes they will lead them via the trikes on the trip to their winter home in Florida.  After settling in there, they wean them off humans and hope they survive.  After learning the way to Florida, they will return North on their own.

These birds are magnificent to see.  They are the tallest North American Bird standing at almost 5 ft.tall.  They have a wingspan of 7.5 ft.

My first introduction to them was in Necedah, Wi.  The picture above was taken at Necdah Lake.  Three whoopers had made it their home.  The dam on the lake failed and it was like a wetland creating perfect habitat for the cranes.

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My second interaction with them was in 2008 during their fall migration.  They came through Illinois and stopped in Piatt County.  I was able to go to the flyover site and take pictures of them on their route south.  It was amazing to see vans with families pull over on the highway as the birds and leaders flew by.  Seeing kids reactions looking out their windows was something to see.  It is not often that you will see a flock of birds following someone in an aircraft.

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If you every have the opportunity to see this event, it is worth it.  For me it was a memory I will not forget.

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