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Endangered whooping cranes arriving locally

The endangered whooping crane will spend the winter in North Alabama, especially Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. CONTRIBUTED
The endangered whooping crane will spend the winter in North Alabama, especially Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – One of nature’s graceful creatures, the whooping crane, is nearing extinction. Experts are predicting that the endangered birds will arrive soon in Alabama on the trek from Wisconsin.

Since 2003, a flock of endangered whooping cranes has spent their winters in Alabama. With only about 400 whooping cranes in the wild, their presence in Alabama is just one more thing that makes Alabama unique, Elisabeth Condon said.

Condon works as Coordinator of Keeping Whooping Cranes Safe with the International Crane Foundation. “The arrival of the first birds is an event to celebrate,” she said. “While the date is different each year, they appeared on Nov. 1 last year.”

Condon visited Rotary Club of Madison at its breakfast meeting on Nov. 19 and explained her work with saving the endangered whooping crane. Madison and the North Alabama region provide a migrant stop for these birds. Specifically, the whooping cranes typically winter at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, just west of Madison’s city limits, and surrounding areas.

In the 1940s, fewer than 20 whooping cranes were left in the wild. Their numbers have climbed now to about 400 total in the wild, with about 33 who spend the winter in Alabama.

“While today’s number is encouraging, it isn’t enough to guarantee the long-term survival of the whooping crane, especially given the severity of threats they face, including wetland destruction, power line collisions and illegal shootings,” Condon said.

For whooping cranes to successfully winter in Alabama, residents should recognize the birds and work together to keep them safe. “The International Crane Foundation is on-the-ground in Alabama all winter introducing citizens to whooping cranes and sharing their important story,” Condon said.

International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds and flyways on which they depend. The foundation’s headquarters are in Baraboo, Wis.

For more information, call Condon at 847-347-5763, email to econdon@savingcranes.org or visit savingcranes.org, Facebook/Save the Whooping Crane or Twitter @savingcranes.

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