|Media Contact: Joan Garland, International Crane Foundation, 608-381-1262
Eight Whooping Crane chicks arrived Tuesday at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin. The cranes are part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America, part of its historic range.
The Whooping Crane chicks, ranging in age from 5-9 weeks old, arrived from the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wis., where the birds were hatched and raised by costumed biologists. The chicks will remain at Necedah NWR until after Labor Day, at which time they will be transferred to Horicon NWR. While the birds are housed on the refuges, they will remain under the watchful eye and supervision of costumed staff from ICF. This fall, after the juvenile birds have fledged, or developed their flight feathers, they will be released at Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wis. in the company of older cranes. The young DAR cranes learn the migration route south by following these older birds.
In addition to the eight DAR birds, 10 Whooping Crane chicks are currently being conditioned to follow ultralight aircraft by WCEP project partner Operation Migration at the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake and Marquette Counties, Wis.For the past 10 years the DAR and ultralight-led Whooping Cranes have been released on the Necedah NWR. Many of these cranes have reached breeding age and have hatched chicks on the refuge. To date, three wild-hatched Whooping Crane chicks have fledged and successfully migrated in this population. This level of nest success is, however, not yet enough to sustain the population. As part of WCEP’s experimentation with improving reproduction in this flock, new locations have been chosen for releasing birds. These sites are based on what biologists have learned about cranes released at Necedah NWR.
Most of the Whooping Cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands. In the spring and fall, project staff from ICF and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.
Founded in 1973, ICF is a 501 c3 organization that works worldwide to conserve cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems on which they depend. ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems. Learn more about ICF’s Whooping Crane conservation efforts.