Endangered cranes soar over Alabama during Operation Migration initiative


Eleven young whooping cranes, the most famous endangered bird in North America, will fly across Alabama in the coming days as part of Operation Migration’s ongoing effort to help the species recover from the brink of extinction.  


Alabama Power is one of several supporters of a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that sponsors the annual whooping crane migration. The unique initiative involves teaching the endangered birds a migration route by having them follow ultralight aircraft from Wisconsin to their wintering grounds in Florida. This year's journey by Operation Migration covers 1,285 miles and passes through seven states.


The birds crossed from Tennessee into Alabama early this morning. Depending on weather conditions, the birds may make rest stops along the way in Franklin, Walker, Chilton, Lowndes and Pike counties.   


Those interested in the birds’ progress can visit www.operationmigration.org and click “In the Field.” Information will also be posted on the website about possible “fly-over” locations where people can see the birds as they continue their migration.


“It’s truly a treat to see these rare and magnificent birds in flight,” said Matt Bowden, vice president of Environmental Affairs for Alabama Power. “We’re proud to support efforts by Operation Migration to restore whooping cranes to the wild.”


Operation Migration USA Inc. promotes the conservation of migratory species, including the whooping crane. Since 2001, Operation Migration has played a lead role in the reintroduction of endangered whooping cranes into eastern North America.


During the 1940s, only 15 birds survived in the world, although the species was not declared endangered until 1971. The primary reason for the birds' disappearance was over-hunting and the destruction of its natural habitat; however, thanks to conservation efforts, nearly 500 whooping cranes survive today in wild populations and in captive breeding centers.


The cranes on this migration were hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. They were taught to follow specially modified ultralight aircraft before being shipped to Wisconsin at about 50 days of age. They are now following a fleet of three ultralight aircraft on their first southward migration.


Once the birds learn the migratory route, they return on their own the following spring. Each year a new generation is taught the route and released. Once the flock reaches 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs, it can be considered self-sustaining.


Supporting the whooping crane is just one of many Alabama Power environmental stewardship initiatives designed to preserve the state’s natural resources and wildlife and help restore endangered species. Learn more at www.alabamapower.com.


 NOTE TO EDITORS & PRODUCERS: To make arrangements to film or photograph the whooping cranes as they fly over Alabama, please contact Liz Condie with Operation Migration at 608-542-0829 or via email at liz@operationmigration.org. Locations and times of fly-overs are subject to change, depending on weather conditions. 


News Media Contact:  Michael Sznajderman, 205-257-4155