Whoop-De-Do for Cranes; First Chicks Hatched in East U.S. in Decades

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MILWAUKEE - A pair of whooping cranes has hatched two chicks in central Wisconsin, marking the first young of the species to be hatched in the wild in the eastern United States in more than 100 years.

The new arrivals will join about two dozen young cranes that will be added this year to a second migratory flock of the endangered birds that is being established in North America.

Operation Migration, the nonprofit group trying to build the flock, posted photos on its Web site showing two brown chicks being tended by their parents in the thick grass of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin.

As part of the project, now in its fifth year, cranes hatched in captivity at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland have been raised at the Necedah refuge and led south by ultralight aircraft in the fall to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River, Fla. They migrate back north on their own in the spring.

Joe Duff, who heads Operation Migration, said the successful nesting was the second attempt by the adult pair this season. The adults had abandoned their first nest.

"Seems the first try was just practice for this grand event," Mr. Duff said, while also cautioning that the parents still face the challenge of keeping the young alive until they are able to fly. …