Whooping cranes, from left, chick W11-21, and his parents, feed while at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Greene County on March 20. PHOTO PROVIDED BY HUITANG ZHOU
Whooping cranes, from left, chick W11-21, and his parents, feed while at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Greene County on March 20. PHOTO PROVIDED BY HUITANG ZHOU
Greene County’s Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area provided shelter and sustenance this winter to what could be the first chick to survive from one pair of whooping cranes, the world’s most endangered crane species. The adult whooping cranes have been a pair for 11 years and have tried every year to rear a chick, with no success. h They are part of the eastern migratory flock, which has 81 adult birds. The eastern flock is not yet self-sustaining and every chick that hatches is closely watched, banded and followed throughout its life. The International Crane Foundation website states there are 802 whooping cranes, both captive and wild.

The male, 18-03 (03 is for 2003, the year he was born, when he was the 18th chick to be documented), and female, 36-09, have been a pair since spring 2011 and have spent most of their winters in Greene County after migrating from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

“The male is almost 20 years old, which is amazing,” said Allisyn Gillet, state bird biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The bird, 18-03, was one of the whooping cranes raised by researchers and taught to migrate from Wisconsin to Florida by following an ultralight aircraft. The aircraft flew through Indiana on the way to and from Florida, imprinting the location on the bird.

But instead of flying to Florida, 18-03 has spent most or all of the winters at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area and nearby spots in Greene County since 2009, according to records of the International Crane Foundation.
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