Ultralight-Led Whooping Cranes Return North On Their Own

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Last week, we told you the spring bird migration is underway, and to prove it, last Sunday the first of this year's migrating whooping cranes flew into Wisconsin from Florida, after a flight of about two weeks. The bird is one of five that flew to Florida back in 2001, the first year that ultralight aircraft were used to guide young cranes on their 1,200-mile southward migration. Operation Migration led two more groups of cranes south via ultralight in the fall of 2002 and 2003, for a total of 36 whooping cranes. Prior to 2001, whooping cranes, an endangered species, had not migrated over the eastern portion of North America in more than a century. The juvenile cranes fly from Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, arriving at Florida's Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in late fall. The ultralight aircraft is only used during the cranes' first fall migration; they return to Wisconsin on their own in the spring. The effort is organized by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a consortium of nonprofit groups and government agencies.