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Whooping crane dies during ultra-light-led migration
by Pam Rotella
26 October 2012, last updated 27 October

Operation Migration is reporting that an ultra-light trained whooping crane has died in Illinois. The bird was one of six on migration from Wisconsin to Florida this year.

Pilot Brooke Pennypacker departs LaSalle County, Illinois with six whooping cranes 26 October 2012, photo by Pam Rotella
On Friday, the organization's In the Field blog reported that the bird known as #10 "had broken its left femur" and "despite everyone's best efforts, she unfortunately died on the operating table."

According to Joe Duff of Operation Migration, "We know the bird was injured on land but are not sure how... It was very windy close to the ground and maybe it hit at an odd angle. That is all it would take. The injury looked like a compression fracture consistent with a hard landing and not an impact."

The ultra-light-led flock had been delayed in LaSalle County, Illinois for the past 13 days due to windy weather conditions. Finally the migration was able to continue this morning, and the birds were led over 100 miles to their Piatt County stopover site.

Whooping cranes are among the most endangered species in the world, with about 600 alive today, just over 400 of those in the wild. The whooping crane reintroduction program is an attempt to establish an eastern migratory flock that travels between Wisconsin and Florida. Prior to reintroduction efforts, only one wild migratory flock of whooping cranes remained, traveling between Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

All original content including photographs © 2012 by Pam Rotella.