WHITE LAKE, La. (AP) - Ten young whooping cranes are getting used to southwest Louisiana. Later this year, they'll join 23 older birds in the wild.
Whooping cranes are some of the world's largest and rarest birds. The 600 or so alive today all are descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s.
Bo Boehringer, spokesman for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said Thursday that 10 juveniles arrived at the 71,000-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area on New Year's Day.
When fully grown, the graceful cranes will be nearly 5 feet from their red caps to their grey-black feet, with nearly 7 ½ feet from black wingtip to black wingtip. They're named for their calls, which can be heard a half-mile away.
While they get acclimated, they'll live in a 70-foot-wide pen topped with netting.
It's inside an open-topped 1.5-acre pen with an electrified wire around it to help keep out such predators as bobcats and coyotes. When the birds are ready, they'll be let into the wider pen to fly where they will - the hope being that at least for a while, they'll come back into the pen to sleep.
The 71,000-acre White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area is in the general area where Louisiana's last wild flock of whooping cranes lived nearly three-quarters of a century ago.
The 23 older birds are among 40 released since February 2011. Only one of the first 10 survived, but the survivors include 12 of the second 16 and 10 of 14 released a year ago.
About 450 whooping cranes live in the wild. About 250 migrate between Texas and Canada; they're the only natural and self-sustaining flock. Another 100 are in a flock taught to migrate between Wisconsin and Florida by following ultralight airplanes. Operation Migration pilots and eight youngsters arrived in Florida on Tuesday, and may leave for their final destination this weekend.
Louisiana's is the second stationary flock that authorities have tried to establish. Fewer than two dozen remain of 289 birds released in Central Florida from 1993 to 2006.
So far, those released in Louisiana have wound up in groups of two to seven birds.
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