Whooping Cranes Have A Happy Landing

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Thanks to some ultralight pilots, Canadian wildlife charity Operation Migration and hundreds of volunteers, there are 16 more whooping cranes ready to take on the world. The young birds, all born last May in captivity in Wisconsin, were literally shown the way to their winter home near Crystal River, Fla., on Monday. More than 1,000 people were on hand at the mall next to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge to witness the happy landing. It's the third group of cranes to be shown the way. Monday's happy ending capped a 54-day, 1,200-mile journey from the cranes' birthplace at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. Cranes born in the wild have older cranes to follow south for the winter but all these birds had were three ultralights. The cranes will be monitored by biologists over the winter and tracked while they try to find their way back to Wisconsin in the spring. Operation Migration funded the effort. There are about 400 whooping cranes left; the species was nearly extinct 60 years ago, when there were only about 20 left.