Operation Migration

Working to Save the Whooping Crane

Cranes in Flight

Just one year after their groundbreaking work inspired the movie, Fly Away Home, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff began Operation Migration. The vision of these two artists-turned-biologists and their extensive work has led to amazing results as they strive to establish a second migrating flock of the endangered Whooping Crane.

Captive-reared Whooping Cranes

Every year since 2001, Operation Migration has used ultralight aircraft to lead a flock of captive-reared Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to a winter home on the west coast of Florida. The Whooping Crane Recovery Team has sanctioned Operation Migration's ultralight migration technique as the main method of reintroduction.

Minimizing human influence

Before the Operation Migration team can teach a flock of young Whooping Cranes how to migrate, a strict protocol must be used to get the young chicks ready. The team of handlers take care to make sure chicks have minimal human influence. Efforts to replicate the natural rearing process include handlers wearing costumes designed to disguise the human shape, handheld puppets of adult cranes, and recordings of crane calls.

Getting ready for the flight

Conditioning the chicks to follow the aircraft starts with multiple daily playings of aircraft engine sounds to pre-hatching eggs and newly hatched chicks. Rigorous guidelines are employed during the chick's development to ensure they will be ready to follow the ultralight for their migration. Daily journal entries from the migrations and photos and records of each Whooping Crane class can be viewed on the site map for operationmigration.org.

Eagle Optics is proud to have such an important and innovative project as one of our Conservation Partners.