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RARE AVIAN VISITORS COMING BACK HOME TO INDIANA
- Subject: RARE AVIAN VISITORS COMING BACK HOME TO INDIANA
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Wed, 13 Jan 99 10:57:15 -0700
- List-Name: GLIN-Announce
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: (USFWS) Georgia Parham
December 15, 1998 812-334-4261 x 203
EA98-89 E-mail: Georgia_Parham@mail.fws.gov
Contact: (IDNR) Jon Marshall
RARE AVIAN VISITORS COMING BACK HOME TO INDIANA
Trumpeter Swans Follow Ultra-light Aircraft from Canada to Southern Indiana
In an experimental project reminiscent of the movie "Fly Away Home," a group of
young trumpeter swans departed Ontario, Canada, on December 4, following an
ultra-light aircraft to Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in southern
Indiana. The flight is an attempt by the Migratory Bird Research Group, a team
of private Canadian researchers, to establish a migrating flock of the huge
birds in eastern North America. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Indiana
Department of Natural Resources are providing technical assistance for the
Four young swans are making the 675-mile journey from Sudbury in southeastern
Ontario, where researchers have been working throughout the summer and fall to
teach them to follow an ultra-light aircraft. Their travel route has taken them
along the east coast of Lake Huron, crossing into the United States near
Detroit, Michigan. The swans will follow the aircraft south into Ohio, travel
south to near Cincinnati, and then move into Indiana along U.S. Route 50. The
birds' final destination is Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour,
Indiana, later this week. The site was chosen for its location in the southern
part of the trumpeter's historical range and its ideal wintering habitat.
Although the project may seem similar to the popular movie "Fly Away Home," in
which Canada geese were raised by humans and taught to migrate by following an
ultra-light aircraft, Wayne Bezner Kerr, lead scientist with the Migratory Bird
Research Group, said this project approaches the challenge in a different way.
Past efforts involving swans, Canada geese, and endangered whooping cranes have
relied on birds "imprinted" or closely associated with human handlers.
According to Bezner Kerr, some of the swans being trained were not imprinted on
humans but on adult trumpeter swans after hatching last June.
"We're experimenting with several groups of swans, some of which have been
imprinted not on humans but on other trumpeter swans," Bezner Kerr said. "We
hope to learn if they will be more likely to behave like swans, maintain their
sense of caution around humans, and successfully migrate back to Canada next
Through a series of training steps, taking advantage of young birds' desire to
group together and follow a leader, they are taught to follow the ultra-light
aircraft. They begin by following a floatplane across a lake, progress to
taking short hops with the plane in the lead, and eventually follow the aircraft
for extended flights.
Bezner Kerr says if the birds make the journey south successfully, the next
milestone is whether they return to Ontario next spring to nest. "This is an
experiment," he emphasized. "We believe the swans will home in on a geographic
area they see from the air. We'll find out next spring."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's regional migratory bird chief, Steve Wilds,
says the Service is interested in the results of the experiment. "Most
trumpeter restoration is being carried out by states, provinces, and efforts of
scientific organizations like the Migratory Bird Research Group," said Wilds.
"The Service supports efforts to reestablish species like the trumpeter swan
that need special help."
Trumpeter swans were once found throughout the United States and Canada, but
uncontrolled hunting and loss of habitat caused the birds to decline. Today,
most trumpeters are found along the Pacific Coast, migrating from Alaska, along
coastal British Columbia to southern Washington. Some trumpeters are also found
in Great Basin regions of Alberta, Washington, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming. In
the Midwest, they once ranged as far south as Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.
Restoration efforts are underway in several areas including Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.
Because their flightpath will take the trumpeters through areas where waterfowl
hunting seasons are underway, the Service and DNR officials are cautioning
hunters to be on the lookout for the huge white birds to avoid accidental
shootings. Trumpeter swans are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty
Act, as well as by state and provincial laws.
"Swans are so much larger than other waterfowl that it is almost impossible to
mistake them for sport-hunted birds. We encourage all hunters to make sure of
their target before shooting to avoid harming this protected species," said Gary
Doxtater, Director of the Indiana DNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Trumpeters are one of three swan species found in North America, along with the
tundra swan and the non-native mute swan. Trumpeters, named for their deep,
resonating calls, are the largest waterfowl in North America and the world's
largest swan species. Though similar in appearance to tundra swans, trumpeters
are nearly twice their size, weighing about 30 pounds and sporting an 8-foot
wingspan. Trumpeters' plumage is entirely white, and they have jet-black bills
The trumpeters' final destination, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, is a
7,724-acre refuge administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The
refuge's lakes, ponds, and wetlands, which usually contain open water throughout
the winter, provide an excellent endpoint for the experimental migration and a
good place for the swans to spend the winter, according to Kerr. In addition,
Muscatatuck has had little waterfowl hunting in the past, so spent lead shot,
which is toxic to swans and other waterfowl, has not accumulated on the refuge.
Muscatatuck personnel will monitor the birds throughout the winter and provide
information to the Migratory Bird Research Group on the swans' activities.
Birdwatchers, hunters, and others who spot a trumpeter swan in southern Indiana
this fall and winter are encouraged to contact the Research Group via e-mail at
email@example.com or Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-522-4352. In addition, the birds' progress
throughout the winter can be monitored on the Internet by accessing either the
DNR's website at www.state.in.us/dnr/fishwild/index.htm or the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's site at www.fws.gov/r3pao.
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Date: Thu, 17 Dec 98 11:27:06 -0700
Subject: RARE AVIAN VISITORS COMING BACK HOME TO INDIANA
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