Fri, Nov 19, 2004
Whooping Cranes, Led By Ultralights, Continue Long Journey
What could well be a species' last
hope of survival in the air is, to the uninitiate, a pageant on the
ground. But it's one few will see. A flight of 14 whooping cranes,
led by an ultralight, passed through Indiana this week and they
stopped near Bob Burton's house.
Burton, a pilot, lends his hangar to Operation Migration every
year as the group helps the endangered whooping cranes south for
"The key to the whole operation is to keep the birds away from
humans," Burton told the Mooresville/Decatur (IN) Times.
Burton watches as three ultralights, which overnighted in his
hangar, gather up the cranes, flying slowly over the field where
they've rested. As the first ultralight passes overhead, 13 of the
graceful, white birds take off to follow. The second flies by and
the sole remaining crane follows. The pilot of the third ultralight
keeps an eye out for stragglers.
It's been an annual right since 1988, involving several species
of cranes that would otherwise have no idea where to go for the
"The birds are raised with the sound of the engine from the time
they hatch," Burton tells the newspaper, pointing out the pilots
wear a white suits and huge goggles, so they look... well...
crane-like. "The baby whooping cranes think that’s their
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