If you’re into Cranes, read on! – Baraboo, Wisconsin

wpid29915-2014-09-07-WI-1560294-.jpgAnother cool thing about Baraboo, Wisconsin, is that it’s home to the International Crane Foundation (ICF), which definitely caught my interest.  Steve gladly dropped me off so I could enjoy some “alone time” with my feathered friends.

The cranes here aren’t in the wild – ICF is home to a captive population of cranes on their 225-acre campus in Baraboo, including the only complete collection of 15 recognized species in one place.  Yes, all 15 species of cranes in the Gruidae family are at this facility.  Be prepared for bird pictures (Steve’s yawning)!

International Crane Foundation

The grounds and viewing platforms at ICF

In 1973, two friends (Ron Sauey and George Archibald) who shared a passion for cranes founded the International Crane Foundation.  Their dream was to save the cranes of the world, and that vision has been the driving force behind ICF ever since.

Nature Trails at ICF

Nature trail at ICF

The ICF’s stated mission is to work worldwide to save cranes, and to conserve the ecosystems, watersheds and flyways on which they depend.  ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems.

Wattled Crane

Crane enclosures

I joined a tour, the best way to learn about the mission and goals of ICF.  Having an educated guide helped me to appreciate each species of bird, as he talked in length about the crane’s habitat, the path of their flyways and the current threats to their survival. These birds had their wings clipped, so they won’t be migrating anymore.  But they seemed to be happy here, and I was very happy to see so many of them in one place!

International Crane Foundation

Our tour guide told the conservatory story of Whooping Cranes

According to the conservation status designations assigned by ICF, the handsome fellows shown below are considered Endangered:

Blue Crane

Blue Crane, the national bird of South Africa

Red Crowned Crane

Red Crowned Crane – Asia

The last recorded observation of Siberian Cranes from the central Asian flock was in 2002. Along with Whooping Cranes, the Siberian birds receive considerable conservation efforts as they are primarily threatened by hunting and risk from loss of wetland habitat.  They are classified as critically endangered, which means the species is facing an extremely high risk of complete extinction in the wild.

Siberian Crane

Siberian Crane

Wattled Crane

Wattled Cranes stand up to six feet tall and can weigh fourteen pounds!

Black crowned crane

The Black Crowned Crane occupies an important place as a “messenger of peace” in the cultural life of the Turkana (Kenyan) people

ICF also classifies the following  as Vulnerable:

Sarus Crane chick

This Sarus Crane chick named Curry was hatched at the facility on Aug 18, 2014

Black-necked Crane

Black-necked Cranes, the “alpine crane”, were the most recently discovered species

Grey crowned crane

Grey Crowned Cranes are non-migratory, and their range stretches from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Kenya, to southeastern South Africa.  Is this guy gorgeous or what?

Hooded Crane

A Hooded Crane chick named Wasabi was hatched on June 6, 2014

White-naped Crane

White-naped Cranes breed in northeastern Mongolia, northeastern China, and adjacent areas of southeastern Russia

And these beauties are still abundant in the wild that they are designated as Least Concern:

Demoiselle Crane

Demoiselle Cranes are the smallest and second most abundant species

Eurasian Cranes

Eurasian Cranes live in over 80 countries!

Brolga

The Brolga Crane occurs throughout northern and eastern Australia, and in limited areas of New Guinea

I learned from the tour guide that the total number of cranes in the facility varies from season to season, but they normally have between 100-120 birds.  They usually have about 30 on display – always in male and female pairs.  Another area of the facility, consisting of 65 pens, is called “Crane City”.  It’s off-limits to the public, since this is where cranes breed and they are sensitive to disturbances from people.

For those who are counting, you may have noticed that I didn’t include Sandhill Cranes in this story. There were a couple here, but I’ve already hung out with thousands of them as they wintered in Arizona – and wrote a story about them here.  They remain listed as Least Concern.

But the stars at the ICF are the endangered Whooping Cranes –

The Whooping Crane’s recovery is one of conservation’s most inspiring success stories. From the tour I learned that only about 600 Whooping Cranes exist in the world today. Their historic decline to near extinction, and gradual but fragile recovery, is among conservation’s best known success stories.  Since 1973, the ICF and their partners have made great strides in protecting and re-introducing these birds, but the job is far from completed.

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes are the rarest of the world’s crane species

Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane is the tallest flying bird in North America

In the 1980’s, ICF researchers began experimenting with “costume-rearing” of cranes.  This involves workers wearing full-length crane costumes to hide the human form, and using crane hand puppets to feed and interact with the chicks.  No talking is allowed, either.  OK, I know what I’m going to wear to my next Halloween party!

 

Whooping Crane

Costume-rearing of Whooping Crane chicks

Costume rearing

Our guide describing how the Crane costume is used.

Ultra Light Migration

Photo credit to International Crane Foundation

ICF and its partners return Whooping Cranes to the wild through Direct Autumn Release, ultralight-led migration, and other other re-introduction methods. Since 2001, ultralight aircraft pilots have acted as surrogate parents to guide captive-hatched and imprinted Whooping Cranes along a planned migration route – beginning in Wisconsin and ending in Florida’s Chassahowitzka and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuges.  Amazing!

Whooping Cranes migrate over 2,500 miles from their breeding grounds in western Canada to their winter digs on coastal wetlands near and within the boundaries of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Texas.  We’re going to spend part of this coming winter there, so I’m excited to see these birds in the wild in a few months!

I thoroughly enjoyed my day as I was educated about the beautiful cranes.  So, if you’re in the area and are interested in cranes, or in the ICF, the $9.50 fee is well worth it!

For more information about the International Crane Foundation, click here.

For more information about conservation efforts for the Whooping Cranes, click here.

To check out ultralight-led migrations, click here.

 

 

Next up:  Tri-states means triple fun!