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In an effort to find a safer means of teaching cranes new migration routes, each year (in 1998 and 1999) we transported a group of greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida) stage-by-stage, in a horse trailer, with stops for brief flights at about 30-km intervals, along a 1300-1400-km fall migration route from Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge (Fish Springs) in west-central Utah to the vicinity of Gila Bend, Arizona. Thereafter, we released them into a wild flock of sandhill cranes. All stage-by-stage birds were hand-reared with both a plastic crane decoy (to encourage them to roost in water) and a costume-draped humanoid form (called a scare-eagle and used for its namesake purpose). When these 2 teaching aids were placed in water, our cranes readily roosted nearby. All but 4 of our cranes proved cooperative (i.e., catchable at each of the ca 25-36 stops) during the migration. All were efficiently released into a wild flock and experienced good survival. The stage-by-stage method proved to be a safe means of transporting cranes south and giving them experience along the route. Some cranes apparently learned their route from the limited experience afforded by releasing them at intervals, and the 1999 cranes have made repealed migrations to or near our chosen northern terminus. However, after 1 winter in our chosen area, the birds have moved elsewhere to winter.
Additional Publication Details
Results of the Utah-Arizona stage-by-stage migrations