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RESULTS OF THE FIRST ULTRALIGHT-LED SANDHILL CRANE 
MIGRATION IN EASTERN NORTH AMERICA 

JOSEPH W. DUFF, Operation Migration, P. O. Box 280, Blackstock, Ontario, LOB 1B0 Canada 

WILLIAM A. LISHMAN, Operation Migration, P. O. Box 280, Blackstock, Ontario, LOB 1B0 Canada 

DEWITT A. CLARK, Operation Migration, P. O. Box 1688, Solomon, MD 20688, USA 

GEORGE F. GEE, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 12011 Beech Forest Road, Laurel, MD 20708-4041, USA

DAVID H. ELLIS, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 11410 American Holly Drive, Laurel, MD 20708-4019, USA 

In 1997, we led 8 sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) south from Ontario, Canada by ultralight aircraft to a wintering area near Warrenton, Virginia, an area without a wild population. Six others were transported south in a trailer in hopes they would return north with those that flew. The migration was 863 km long, included 14 stops, and took 21 days to complete. All 13 surviving birds were wintered together. In March 1998, the surviving 7 "aircraft-led" birds departed the wintering site. The following day, 6 of the 7 were reported on the south shore of Lake Ontario. The flock then moved around the western tip of Lake Ontario. On 5 April 1998, we used 2 aircraft to lead the birds 104 km directly east to the rearing area. The flock soon moved off the fledging grounds, continued to associate with people, and was eventually removed from the flyway. Because no wild cranes are known to fly our chosen route, this study demonstrated not only the effectiveness of ultralight aircraft to lead cranes on migration, but it also proved that cranes so led can return from their wintering site to the general vicinity of their fledging area unassisted. The birds did not follow our indirect route south but rather flew north to the latitude of the fledging area, then wandered. 

PROCEEDINGS NORTH AMERICAN CRANE WORKSHOP 8:109-114 

Key words: costume-rearing, Grus canadensis, migration, Ontario, reintroduction, sandhill crane, ultralight aircraft, Virginia, whooping crane.

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U.S. Department of the Interior , U.S. Geological Survey
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center , Laurel, MD 20708
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Last modified: 02/07/2002
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