THE WHOOPING CRANE REPORT: 19
This is an expansive
view of the part of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge that our chicks
are now calling home. You can see the wetlands, and the large
flight-netted pen that extends into it.
Here's a crane's eye
view of the inside of the chick's pen. You can see the large area of water
for the birds to roost and probe in. Overhead is flight-netting to keep
the birds inside, and shade covering.
This is directly
outside the pen.
Early in the morning, a handler lets the chicks out of their pen for training and exercise.
The crane head that the pilot is handling has a secret compartment that can release mealworms for the chicks to eat.
Photos by Heather Ray, Operation Migration.
Whooper Chicks Fly to Wisconsin -- With Help from a Private Jet!
During the month of June, Patuxent sent 17 healthy, young whoopers on a private jet to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to begin flight training for the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) migration project. Fourteen of the birds were produced at Patuxent. Three were produced at theInternational Crane Foundation (ICF), one of our partners in the WCEP project. ICF sent fertile eggs to Patuxent, so that the chicks could hear the recorded sounds of the ultra-light even before they hatched. The ICF chicks also needed to be acclimated with the aircraft at a very early age and learn to socialize with the rest of the birds in their age group.
The WCEP chicks had already been to "ground school" here at Patuxent. They did very well learning to follow the ultra-light. Now that they're at Necedah, they continue this ground-training as the WCEP crew waits for the birds to mature and start flying.
The five birds from last year's project--the birds who successfully migrated to Florida behind the ultralight and then returned to Necedah on their own--are still in the area. Their group has broken up. Three of the birds forage and roost alone or with other sandhill cranes. The two other birds have been attracted to the area where the chicks are being trained. Yet, all five are using good foraging and roosting habitat in Wisconsin. Older birds usually don't like younger birds impinging on their territory, and clearly these older birds consider Necedah theirs. They were the first whoopers to live there. The "wildness" of these older birds is the result of hard work on the part of the WCEP crew. It could easily be undone by their developing a new association with humans now working with the young birds.
Since the WCEP crew can't afford to have the older birds become too accustomed to human activity around the training site, or to have those birds harass the young chicks, they've gone to some trouble to discourage them from visiting the area. This included creating a "swamp monster" out of a camouflage tarp and Mylar sheets, which rose up unexpectedly and made scary sounds. It's an effective technique which masks the human presence. At the same time it makes the birds think twice about hanging out and giving the new kids on the block a hard time. But the birds are curious, and continue to return. The crew captured the birds and tried separating and confining them to make them reluctant to return. That seems to have had a strong impact on the birds who, once freed, did not return the next morning. But the birds have strong attachments to the area. The crew expects them to come back again. This is a problem that they'll have to face in the future, as well, as more and more whoopers return to stake a claim at Necedah.
The oldest group of the 17 young birds is just becoming airborne now. They're able to fly behind the ultra-light for several minutes. On a recent flight, two of last year's birds joined the group in the air, flying with them off the wing. It only lasted a few seconds but it was an amazing sight as the pure white older birds joined with the cinnamon-and-white young-of-the-year birds. After a few seconds of flying with the ultra-light and the young birds, the older birds veered off and returned to the marsh. The crew suspects that in spite of their discouragement, they haven't seen the last of them. These are the kind of developments no one can predict. The solution to it will have to be creative.
You can read regular updates to the chick's training and progress at:
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership website:
and also at Operation Migration's website:
For more interesting news and information about whoopers and the reintroduction effort, check out our other partner's websites at the bottom of our page.
Please check our site on September 12th for a web page update.
See our Crane Videos!
early morning haze rises in the background, the chicks follow their
ultra-light "parent" during a training exercise. It's just a matter of time
now before they're all airborne.
Click here to ask questions about Patuxent's whooping crane program. Please check our site on September 12th for a web page update!Whooping Crane Reports
Hatch Day (Click on numbered links to view all other egg (negative numbers) and chick days).