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Whooping cranes close to completing Wisconsin to Florida migration

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Eight Wisconsin baby whooping cranes are just one day away from arriving at their winter migration home in Florida. Operation Migration said the birds, led by a pair of ultra-light pilots, were rained out of their final flight yesterday to Saint Mark's National Wildlife Refuge. That's where they'll spend the rest of the winter mating with other birds, in an ongoing effort to boost populations of the endangered whooping crane in the Eastern U-S.

This is the 13th year that Operation Migration has conducted the migration flights from Wisconsin to Florida. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership joined the project a couple years ago. That group was planning to have eight additional cranes fly to Florida, with the help of other birds which made the trip in the past. However, the group was delayed leaving the Horicon Marsh in the fall.

Three cranes died from the cold, and five others were at various stages of their trips at last word. The Operation Migration group has spent 93 days flying through seven states. They spent a wet New Year's Day in Leon County Florida.