Congratulations Class of 2009 Whoopers!

Operation Migration and the Class of 2009 Whooping Cranes have completed another arduous journey from Wisconsin to Florida! This is the second time since the tragic loss of the 2006 class to a severe storm that young whoopers were split into two groups, thus lessening the impact of a possible mortality event on a single group of birds. The two wintering locations for the cranes are St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Not all of the eastern North American population of Whooping Cranes have been led via Operation Migration’s fleet of ultralite aircraft. In the fall of 2009, nine cranes were reared in captivity and released with older cranes who will “teach” them the migration route. This effort is called “Direct Autumn Release” (DAR) and serves as a complement to the ultralite trained group by reintroducing a larger number of cranes each season to the eastern population.

In 1941 Whooping Cranes were near the brink of extinction with only 16 individuals remaining in the wild. Today, almost 70 years later, there are close to 400 of these majestic birds flying free on account of amazing and heroic conservation efforts. While around 85 of them are members of the eastern group, over 200 whoopers nest at the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

If you would like to help the Whooping Cranes, please visit Operation Migration or the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) on the web for further information!

Mike McDowell
Eagle Optics Staff

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