North American Crane Working Group


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Lishman, William A., Tighe Teets, Joseph W. Duff, William J. L. Sladen, Gavin G. Shire, Kirk M. Goolsby, Kerr Wayne A. Bezner, and Richard P. Urbanek. A reintroduction technique for migratory birds: leading Canada geese and isolation-reared sandhill cranes with ultralight aircraft. In: Urbanek RP, Stahlecker DW, eds. 1997. Proceedings of the Seventh North American Crane Workshop, 1996 Jan 10-13, Biloxi, Mississippi. Grand Island, NE: North American Crane Working Group. pp. 96-104.


Used by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


No successful method for establishing self-sustaining populations of whooping cranes (Grus americana), particularly in a migration situation, has been proven. This research initiated development of a reintroduction technique using ultralight aircraft to lead cranes from a natal area along a desired route to a predetermined wintering site. Canada geese (Branta canadensis) were used in initial migration efforts. Ultralight aircraft and pilots successfully led 86 juvenile geese on 3 southbound migrations from Ontario to winter sites 640-1,312 kIn from the natal area. Of 16 1993-hatched geese that survived their first winter in Virginia and 35 1994- hatched geese that were successfully led to South Carolina, 46 (90%) returned unassisted to their natal area in Ontario on their first spring migrations. Only 15 (50%) of 30 1995-hatched geese trucked to New York to begin aircraft-led migration returned to the Ontario rearing area the following spring. Of 16 geese trucked the entire route to Virginia but allowed to fly freely at predetermined stops, none returned to Ontario. In 1995, isolation-(costume-)reared sandhill cranes (G. canadensis) were trained to follow the aircraft in flights within 50 Ian of the Ontario rearing area. Planned future research will involve leading sandhill cranes, and then whooping cranes, on an actual migration.