Whooping cranes led by ultralight aircraft from their summer home in Wisconsin have made it to Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The cranes winter in and around Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico and will return to Wisconsin and other northern areas on their own in the spring.
Researchers have been leading cranes to Florida every year since 2000. This year’s 17 cranes — the “class of 2007” — are part of an experimental flock that researchers are trying to establish in the eastern United States. (There is already an established flock in the west.)
Previous years’ cranes fly to and from Florida on their own, unassisted.
After the first few years of following the crane migration, every year that a new class of cranes comes to Florida and makes news, I wonder if I should still point it out on EcoFlorida. After all, you aren’t likely to see this experimental flock (there is another experimental flock of whooping cranes in Florida that doesn’t migrate), and even though it’s a fun story, it’s kind of almost like the story from the previous year.
However, I think the real key to what researchers are doing is helping re-establish whooping cranes in the eastern United States — and that it’s a good example for what could be done (and in some cases is being done) to help out other species. It would be great to see more endangered species being captive bred and introduced into the wild.
Florida is great in the winter — just ask the birds. Many birds fly through Florida or stay in Florida for the winter.
In fact, a third of the most imperiled birds in the States come to Florida at least part of the time, which has some bird lovers concerned, according to the News-Press. In Florida, birds are subject to habitat loss, invasive species and the effects of warming trends, the article points out.
Audubon has compiled a list of imperiled bird species called the WatchList. These birds are most in danger. An Audubon spokesperson called for people to do what they can, even simple steps like making your yard a helpful habitat for birds, in order to help the bird populations.
Someone shot a bald eagle in the leg in southwestern Florida, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for the public’s help in finding the shooter, the Naples Daily News reports — call 239-561-8144 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC. Bald eagles aren’t listed as endangered anymore, but it is still a crime to harm them, punishable by fines and jail time.
The eagle will need surgery on the leg as soon as it’s healthy enough — it weighs about half of what a healthy eagle should, the paper reports.
This year’s flock of endangered whooping cranes has left their summer home in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and are on their way here to their winter home in Citrus County, the Associated Press reports. This year’s “class” has 17 birds. The article has an interview with a co-founder of Operation Migration, which oversees establishing a flock of migratory whooping cranes in the eastern U.S.
The whooping cranes are trained to follow an ultralight aircraft so they learn the general migration route.
Previous year’s “classes” of birds migrate south on their own. The first year was 2000.
A few years ago, I got the chance to meet Julie Brashears Wraithmell. She was instrumental in building the Great Florida Birding Trail. Today, she’s with Audubon of Florida.
Julie appeared in the Charlotte Sun Herald to say Florida birds have been dropping in population, the paper reports. She blames loss of habitat, exotic species, fire exclusion (preventing fires in natural areas that depend on fire) and other reasons. The article has more information on specific species and the reasons for their decline.
Wood storks are considered endangered species, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thinks their status should be improved to threatened, the Naples Daily News reports. The FWS says the wood storks are adapting to other habitats and have expanded neyond their range.
This could be a bad year for wood stork nesting, though, because conditions have been so dry. But the article reports there are now more than 10,000 nesting pairs of wood storks as of last year — the first time since the 1960s.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey
For some reason that I don’t understand, flamingos have gotten themselves associated with Florida. I still have family members who don’t live in Florida asking me about them. I tell them flamingoes are more of a Bahamian bird. (There are tens of thousands of them on the island of Inagua in the Bahamas.)
However, wild flamingoes do make their way to Florida sometimes. I saw a flamingo once, in early January, at Everglades National Park in the Flamingo area (where else, right?!). Another time, again in January, my husband and I went to Everglades National Park in search of a small flock of flamingoes that birdwatchers had seen north of Flamingo … but we didn’t see them.
Well, flamingoes have recently been seen in Belle Glade farmland, according to this Palm Beach Post article. They were hanging out with other wading birds.
For an excellent article on flamingoes in Florida, go here.
What bird do you associate with our state?
Photo from Miami-Dade County