About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Wild Birds Unlimited Corporate Plane

Operation Migration, the lead organization helping to reintroduce endangered Whooping Cranes into eastern North America, has begun its 9th season of migration flights from Wisconsin to Florida. The Whooping Crane Grus americana is the tallest flying bird in North America, with a height of up to 5 feet and a wingspan as wide as 8 feet.

In the 1940s the species was reduced to just 15 birds. There are now 77 migratory Whooping cranes in eastern North America, including the first chick to hatch in the wild in Wisconsin in more than a century. The Class of 2009 is made up of 21 young Whooping Cranes.

Migration is the seasonal movement of birds, generally between breeding and non-breeding areas. However the exact techniques migrating birds use to find their way across thousands of miles varies. Certain types of birds have strong migratory instincts, while others (including geese, ducks, and cranes) must be taught the way to and from their winter homes.

After several years of careful breeding and release, a non-migratory flock of cranes was established in Florida. However, to re-introduce a migratory flock (a group of whooping cranes that spent their summers in Wisconsin and their winters in Florida) the birds would have to be taught the migratory route south.

In Operation Migration, Whooping Cranes are reared by “invisible” people dressed in baggy outfits with a crane puppet attached and played lullabies of the ultra light plane engine. That way the birds don’t imprint on humans and aren’t afraid to follow the ultra light aircraft on their first migration from Wisconsin to Florida. The birds learn the migratory route and then return, on their own, the following spring. This successful method of re-establishing migration routes was pioneered by Bill Lishman and Joe Duff.

You've helped too. With every purchase you made at our store, a portion went to Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways to Nature® Conservation Fund which helped pay for the ultra light aircraft, education materials, the enclosures where the Whooping Cranes live and a viewing blind that is used by project staff to monitor the young birds.

Follow the Whoopers
Click here to read the Operation Migration Field Journal.

Give them Your Support
Become a MileMaker sponsor and help Operation Migration get the 2009 generation of endangered Whooping Cranes chicks to Florida! Click here to learn how you can help.

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