Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nearly Extinct Since 1941

Many thanks to Kentaurian for sending in the Whooping Crane wild hatch news.

Whoopers hatch historic chicks
RON SEELY rseely@madison.com
June 24, 2006

For the first time in more than a hundred years, a Wisconsin marsh cradles a pair of newly hatched wild whooping cranes.The parents of the chicks, which hatched late Thursday afternoon deep in the watery back country of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, are among the birds that have been trained to migrate to the Gulf Coast of Florida behind an ultralight aircraft.

Whooping cranes neared extinction in the early 1940s due to hunting and the loss of the wetlands in which they thrive. They have slowly recovered and the latest and most ambitious effort to help them came in 2001 when a partnership was formed to establish only the second flock of wild migrating whoopers in North America.

The effort - a partnership involving several agencies and private groups, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of Natural Resources and the International Crane Foundation - has resulted in a flock of 65 whoopers. The hope was that the birds would not only learn to migrate on their own but would return to Wisconsin to nest and raise young.

That hope was realized about 4 p.m. Thursday when project biologist Richard Urbanek saw a pair of nesting whooping cranes apparently tending new babies. Urbanek confirmed the arrival of the chicks Friday, watching as the parents took care of their two chicks."They were just shoveling food down these chicks," Urbanek said. "Tadpoles, mud minnows, whatever they could find."

The parents appear determined to raise young. This was their second attempt to hatch babies this season. The first failed, as did the efforts of four other pairs that laid eggs.

Last year, for the first time in the five years of the recovery program, two pair of cranes laid eggs but those nests also failed.Urbanek said the new arrivals appear healthy and are behaving like true siblings. "They're fine," he said. "They're fighting with each other."

Others involved with the recovery program were thrilled and more than aware of the significance of the moment, not only to the project but to Wisconsin, where the deep, echoing call of the whooping crane has been so long missing."We are ecstatic," said Dan Peterson, a ranger and public use specialist at Necedah. "It's uplifting, to have a program that started in 2001 and to now have reached this point.

"Urbanek said the chicks face an uncertain future. It will be 70 days before they are able to fly and during that time, they will be at the mercy of numerous predators in the marsh.But, for the moment, little can dim the excitement of having two baby whooping cranes living in a Wisconsin marsh that has not known such an event in more than a century.

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1 comment:

Eleanor said...

Great news!

I went to see the Whooping Cranes in Texas three years ago.