"Operation Migration" to mark time in Lowndes and Pike County | News
LOWNDES/PIKE COUNTY, AL. (WSFA) - Operation Migration, a team of people dedicated to preserving numbers and migratory patterns of endangered bird species will be flying over Alabama and making stops in Lowndes and Pike County in the coming days.
The team is leading a group of endangered Whooping cranes on a 1285 mile southward journey ending in Florida.
The group teaches the birds to migrate using Ultralight Airplanes to guide them. You might recognize the concept, they were the basis of the major motion picture "Fly Away Home."
Normally take-off can be viewed by the public from a distance so as not to scare the birds, however the Alabama locations do not provide a suitable viewing location. But, you can follow the Google Map on the team's website and watch the morning skies. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon seeking to save endangered species and inspiring movie-goers everywhere.
Due to destruction of habitat and over-hunting, Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s when their population was reduced to only 15 birds.
Since falling under the protection of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the only naturally occurring population of migrating Whooping cranes has grown to just over 200 birds. This population migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park, which spans the border of northern Alberta and Canada’s Northwest Territories, and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on costal Texas.
Because the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population of Whooping cranes is extremely vulnerable to severe weather, avian disease, and catastrophes such as oil and chemical spills, scientists and conservationists were anxious to establish additional flocks to guard against the impacts such threats could have on the species' future.
For many avian species, the ability to migrate is a learned process; that is, passed on from one generation to the next. As a result, when the last bird vanishes from an area, the once-traditional route is lost forever.
Building on the innovative work done by Canadian visionary and Operation Migration (OM) co-founder, Bill Lishman, OM originated and spent years researching, developing, and refining a unique method and protocol for an aircraft-led bird migration. OM’s work with the endangered Whooping crane was preceded by a number of successful migration studies involving Canada geese, Trumpeter swans, and Sandhill cranes, and became the subject for the major motion picture, Fly Away Home.
In 1999, Operation Migration was asked by the Canadian/US Whooping Crane Recovery Team to spearhead an experiment to reintroduce Whooping cranes into central Wisconsin, and teach them to migrate by leading them with ultralight aircraft to the west coast of Florida. This program required the combined effort of many jurisdictions and precipitated the formation of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). Operation Migration is a founding member of this international organization that includes Federal, State and private agencies.
Using captive-hatched birds from captive propogation centers throughout North America, OM rears and trains Whooping crane chicks to accept and follow specially modified ultralight aircraft in order to teach them a migratory route.
To learn more about the project, visit the website HERE.