JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Big excitement over a tiny bird. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) says a major milestone was reached this week when the first whooping crane chick hatched in Jefferson Davis Parish.
State officials say the whooping cranes in Louisiana's wild disappeared in 1950. They were reintroduced into the wild in 2011.
"This is something we've been looking forward to and anticipating since the reintroduction began in 2011,'' said LDWF biologist Sara Zimorski, who leads the Louisiana whooping crane project. "One of the major steps in restoring the species is successful reproduction. We've had several pairs nesting the last couple of years but until now no favorable outcomes. It's an exciting time for us and all of our partners who have worked so hard alongside us."
The baby bird's parents are a 4-year-old female and a 3-year-old male. The state says the birds paired this winter and produced eggs for the first time in mid-March.
"I'd like to commend and congratulate our hard-working biologists and partners who have shepherded our program so well,'' LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon said. "The ultimate goal is to establish a self-sustaining whooping crane population in Louisiana so that this beautiful bird can thrive for generations to come. The first chick hatched here is a step in that direction.''
Wildlife officials say, "whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds similar to white ibis, white pelicans, and wood storks, all of which must be distinguished from legally-hunted snow geese. However, a red head and black facial markings along with a height of five feet and a wingspan of 7-8 feet make them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips and fully extended neck and legs, which extend well beyond the tail."
Anyone who comes across a whooping crane is advised to watch the bird from a distance and contact LDWF.
The state says funding for the reintroduction of whooping cranes was a public/private partnership.