ICF's Whooping Crane Chicks Cast for Critical Role in the Wild

An endangered Whooping Crane chick, raised at the International Crane Foundation,
stretches its wings during its scheduled exercise time.

Media contact: Kate Fitzwilliams, ICF Marketing/PR Specialist, 608-356-9462 ext. 147

Baraboo, WI –   The International Crane Foundation (ICF) has nine Whooping Crane chicks for this year’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Program, a release method that relies on older Whooping Cranes to lead the chicks south in the fall. ICF is one of only five captive breeding centers in the world focused on raising endangered Whooping Cranes for release into the wild.

In honor of ICF’s 40th Anniversary, staff and members had a lot of fun picking the names for the chicks based on the theme, “1970s TV sitcom characters.” The DAR class of 2013 includes: Radar (hatched 5/24), Squiggy (hatched 5/26), Hawkeye (hatched 5/27), Maude (hatched 5/29), Fonzi (hatched 5/30), Epstein, Klinger (both hatched 6/02), Mork (hatched 6/7), and Latka (hatched 6/13).

For two years, ICF has shared the world of raising endangered cranes with the public via our Crane Chick Cam, which is ending its 2013 season today. This year, ICF staff managed over a dozen chicks.

“Scheduling exercise for the chicks and making sure they are getting the time and attention they need to stay healthy can be very challenging,” ICF Aviculturist Kim Boardman said. “We start exercising the chicks at 7 am and go until at least 5 pm or later – it’s a long day, but definitely worth it to see healthy and happy chicks.”

To prepare for the fall release, ICF staff is constructing pens at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, where the nine DAR chicks will be released to follow older cranes south. Just northwest of Horicon at White River Marsh State Wildlife Area, eight additional Whooping Crane chicks are being trained to follow an ultra-light aircraft and their costumed pilots south this fall. Successfully managed by ICF partner Operation Migration each year, the public can check out their live crane cam and receive updates on the chicks.

Efforts to save Whooping Cranes began after their population dwindled to 15 birds in the 1940s. Today there are nearly 600 Whooping Cranes, with approximately 445 in the wild, including more than 100 cranes in the reintroduced eastern population that migrates between Wisconsin and southeastern states. The reintroduction is conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, a coalition of public and private organizations, of which ICF is a founding member.

How to follow the 2013 DAR Story:
Professional photographer Tom Lynn documented ICF’s prairie restoration work last year, creating a stunning exhibit at ICF titled, “Bloom.” This year, through his project, “Hatch to Release,” Tom is documenting our Whooping Crane chicks.  The public can continue to watch ICF’s chicks grow through Tom’s incredible photographs; please click here to follow Tom’s blog.
“Like” ICF on Facebook and get up-to-date coverage on Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin and in Texas.
Join us for our Crane Chick Cam live chats with ICF staff every other Tuesday from 11:30 – 12:00 CDT. You may request an email reminder for our upcoming chats or replay any of our past chats. Next chat, learn about “Whooping Cranes in the Field” with Anne Lacy, ICF Crane Research Coordinator, at 11:30 AM, Tuesday, July 23.

In addition to captive breeding, ICF monitors the Whooping Cranes once they are released and conducts extensive field research. ICF is also deeply involved with the last remaining wild flock that breeds in Canada and winters in Texas. ICF works with diverse partners in the Guadalupe River basin in Texas, wintering area for the western Whooping Crane population, to protect the fragile gulf ecosystem, its precious wildlife, and the vital coastal economy. Our research includes new studies of Whooping Cranes, their coastal habitats and the ecology of blue crabs to improve our management of cranes and their habitats during droughts and other crisis periods, while outreach focuses on water users throughout the Guadalupe basin. Learn more about ICF’s work in the Guadalupe River basin.

ICF thanks the Antonia Foundation for its support of the Crane Chick Cam and allowing the public to go behind-the-scenes into the world of raising endangered Whooping Crane chicks.

Founded in 1973, ICF is a 501(c)(3) organization that works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. ICF provides knowledge, leadership, and inspiration to engage people in resolving threats to cranes and their diverse landscapes.  Learn more about our global conservation efforts at www.savingcranes.org.