Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Whooping Cranes Hatch Two

As I referenced in a previous Loose Feathers post, researchers watching a colony of whooping cranes in Wisconsin believed that a pair of whooping cranes had hatched a chick. Well, now this news has been confirmed, and it turns out that the pair hatched not one, but two chicks. For the first time in over 100 years, there are now whooping cranes breeding in the eastern United States.

As part of the project, now in its fifth year, cranes hatched in captivity at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland have been raised at the Necedah refuge and led south by ultralight aircraft in the fall to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River, Fla. They migrate back north on their own in the spring.

The flock now numbers about 60 birds, with 22 newly hatched young ones being raised for release this fall....

The only other migrating flock of whooping cranes numbers about 200 birds. They fly from Canada to winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. The whooping crane, the tallest bird in North America, was near extinction in 1941, with only about 20 left.

The event marks a milestone for Operation Migration, the group that has led the charge on restoring whooping cranes to their former habitats. See their website for more on the recovery effort.