Whoopers moved to Tennessee refuge
Vacation in Illinois is officially over for six young whooping cranes that arrived in the state on Nov. 6.
The six birds had first spent a month in Peoria County before migrating another 177 miles south to Clinton County in southwestern Illinois. That was the final Illinois stop for the endangered birds, which were captured and crated to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tenn.
Writes Joan Garland of the International Crane Foundation: “The cranes were relocated because they were not in a very safe environment at their location in Illinois. There was quite a bit of human activity nearby—specifically an active hunt club.
“Trackers Richard Urbanek, USFWS and Eva Szyszkoski, ICF, crated the six birds Tuesday morning and drove them approximately seven hours to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge where they were released that afternoon. The move went very well and the cranes are likely quite content with their new location. In addition to the thousands of Sandhill Cranes at the refuge, nine other Whooping Cranes are currently staging at the refuge, including DAR bird #46-07—the other flockmate of the six juveniles.”
The six whoopers, which were hatched in May and June, were released into the wild Oct. 30 in Wisconsin. The hope of the ICF was that the birds would migrate south to their wintering habitat at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
On Nov. 6, the six whoopers took off on their own and flew 215 miles south before stopping on a wetland in Peoria County. Bill Neff, the owner of the property, built a shallow lake in May on the land where, a year before, he had row crops.
“It’s kind of amazing because they had to fly over a lot of lakes before they chose this spot,” Neff said. “And we’re not that far from the Illinois River and all its marshes. We feel real privileged just to have a spot the cranes like. It’s really pretty exciting.”