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Contact: Chris Hughes, Acting Chief of Science and Resource Management, 678-538-1322
On Thursday, March 2nd, park employees spotted three whooping cranes (Grus americana) within Chattahoochee River NRA. The Chattahoochee River has been used for millions of years as a major corridor for migrating birds. This sighting demonstrates just how vital it is to protect the river corridor. At one time, whooping cranes were nearly extinct, with only 15 adult whooping cranes surviving in North America. Now there is an on-going effort led by Operation Migration to establish a breeding population of migrating whooping cranes in the eastern United States. The objective is to establish 25 breeding pairs of whooping cranes that eventually result in a self sustaining population.
Migrating is a learned behavior, so it is necessary to train the birds to migrate. This is done with limited human contact and happens one time during their life on their initial migration from Wisconsin to Florida. It is then believed that the birds will be able to migrate on their own. This year, there were 31 adult and 19 juvenile whooping cranes in Florida and they are still in the process of preparation for their migration north to Wisconsin. The birds witnessed in Georgia along the Chattahoochee River on March 2nd were some of the first to begin this migration. It is a magnificent experience to see the whooping cranes birds and we should all feel honored that they were able to find refuge in a national park unit along the Chattahoochee River.