Eleven young whooping cranes have completed more than a third of their migration from Wisconsin to Florida.
They flew into Kentucky from Illinois Friday, landing in Union County, Ky. Only six to seven months old, the cranes have traveled 463 miles and have another 795 miles to go.
This is the 10th group of birds to take part in a landmark project led by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing the imperiled species in eastern North America. There are now about 96 whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America thanks to their efforts.
"We are proud to be part of this effort to bring this magnificent bird species back from the brink of extinction," said Cindy Dohner, Southeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "This is another example of people working together to help overcome monumental challenges that many species face in surviving in a landscape greatly altered by mankind."
Three ultralight aircraft and the juvenile cranes are traveling through Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia to reach the birds’ wintering habitats at Chassahowitzka and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuges along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
"Safeguarding an endangered species does not come with guarantees." said Joe Duff, senior ultralight pilot and CEO of Operation Migration. "This is more than simply an experiment in wildlife reintroduction; it is a struggle against all odds."
Want to see them?
Live streaming video of the flight is available, subject to wireless signal strength and technical capacity. Visit: http://www.operationmigration.org/crane-cam.html
You can see a take-off from Nov. 6 on YouTube by visiting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzGw5O_c97o&feature=player_embedded&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1
Operation Migration frequently offers the chance to see a fly-over. See locations near you at: http://www.operationmigration.org/MigrationFlyovers2010.pdf
Want to help?
Report whooping crane sightings at the whooping crane observation webpage at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm.
For more information on the project and its partners, visit the WCEP website at: http://www.bringbackthecranes.org. and http://www.operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html