The cranes are back!

The cranes are back!

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

Naturalist

On April 19, just after 6:30 p.m., four whooping cranes arrived at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Necedah, Wis. The birds landed within a half mile from the location where they were raised by humans dressed in crane outfits last year. As you may recall, the young cranes followed ultra-light planes to Florida wintering grounds in October; this spring, however, they flew back on their own.

There is a fifth crane in this group of whoopers, but it left the others in Tennessee to take its own route home. As of April 21, the lone crane was in Rock County, Wis. Now Wisconsin (the Midwest) has its first wild whooping cranes since the 1800s. Extirpation of whooping cranes from the eastern United States would not have occurred without man, and now man has intervened to get them back. The reintroduction program is the culmination of years of research, all brought under the umbrella of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.

The fact that the cranes came back gives a tremendous boost to the project, which is slated to go on nine more years. This year the project will raise 20 young cranes at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and escort them down to Florida’s Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, as was done last year. The hope is that in 10 years, Wisconsin will have a flock of 125 birds.

Probably the most unusual time of this group’s flight back was when they flew directly over metro Chicago and even circled at times, much to the delight of Chicago-area birdwatchers.

To see the current status of the cranes or review the history of their flight to Florida and back, click on operationmigration.org.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

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