Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

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December 21, 2005

The chicks got their permanent leg bands and color codes after their Florida arrival. The birds were hooded during the exam so the handlers and veterinarians could freely use their hands.

Photo Operation Migration.

It's a Wrap!
The HY2005 ultralight-led chicks are done with final health exams, and each wears a new permanent leg band with radio transmitter and color codes (see individual life story pages for codes) that will identify them for the rest of their lives. The pre-release health exams and banding were done at the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve "holding site" on December 19-20. The cranes were brought out two at a time. The veterinarian exam occurred at one “station” while banding took place at a second station. Angie (a veterinarian) and Charlie helped. Meanwhile, Richard and Mark towed the aircraft trailer and one travel pen trailer to Chassahowitzka for storage. As usual, Mark will winter in Florida to assist with the monitoring and care of the new arrivals and the adult birds. Everyone else is well on their way home after a long time away from families. Way to go, team!

As for the four DAR chicks (#527, #528, #532, and #533), three females are in Tennessee at this writing. The male's location is unknown. Their movements will be updated on their life story pages every time we get news.

What's Next?
The 19 chicks will likely stay at this temporary holding site until all of the older birds have stopped at the Chass site and dispersed to their inland wintering sites. The chicks will be let out of the top-netted part of the pen to exercise during the day. Then, possibly in mid-January, the chicks will be led by ultralight OR crated and driven to Chass. At Chass they'll fly free, coming and going from their winter pen. Even so, they'll be watched over during their first winter by a monitoring team. Twice each day, morning and night, Mark or Sara or another team member will take the 40-minute airboat ride to the cranes' remote pen site to check on them. They'll slog through the black muck of the marsh, trying to keep their rubber boots from being sucked off by the mud. They'll fill water pails and crane chow feeders and take notes on the birds. Their final job each evening will be activating the electric fence. Any predator would get zapped with a good jolt of electricity. This is necessary to protect the priceless and still-inexperienced birds inside.

The young cranes will will learn about delicious, nutritious blue crabs. They will learn about tides. They'll have a blast probing for snails and playing with the black sludge. They'll roost in water at night. And if their instincts are correct, they'll head north to the Wisconsin wetlands in spring.

This year's four DAR chicks are part of the next steps in the reintroduction effort: seeing if experienced whoopers in the flock will lead released captive-bred, costume-reared chicks on migration. Eventually, the pilots will stop leading birds with the ultralights—but not until the flock reaches 25 breeding pairs. They hope the experienced cranes will take over teaching the route to released chicks as well as their own chicks — and we all hope 2006 will bring the very first whooper chicks hatched by the now-wild "ultra-cranes" in Wisconsin. The goal? A flock of 125 birds in Wisconsin by 2020, including 25 nesting pairs. At this writing, and including the 2005 ultralight-led migration of 19 chicks, the new Eastern flock has 64 whooping cranes! You can keep up with the life story of every one.

Signing Off Till Spring 2006
In mythology, whooping cranes represent long lives, peace, and tranquility. That is our wish for this young flock of ancestors of the whooping cranes YOUR descendants will see in the skies over the Midwest and East. This is Jane Duden saying "over and out" at the end of the 2005 ultralight-led migration. Please join us again in the spring to track these youngsters on their first unaided journey north.

Keep a Migration Journal

Today's Question:
How are whooping cranes adapted to live in the salt marshes of Florida and Texas? Look at the photos below and list as many adaptations as you can. Then check our adaptations lesson for more fascinating details. Edit your journal entry to include adaptations for the head, neck, body, legs and feet.

Photo Operation Migration Photo Ramirez

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure presented in cooperation with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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