Jackson County

Stretching their wings, young cranes join sandhill refuge

One of three young sandhill cranes released south of U.S. 90 on Tuesday spreads its wings as it enters the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.
One of three young sandhill cranes released south of U.S. 90 on Tuesday spreads its wings as it enters the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

Three young cranes, released Tuesday onto the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, spread their wings right way and took flight.

Ready to fly was what refuge biologist Scott Hereford expected when he released them, because these birds were held in a special new socializing pen on the refuge that enables them to use their wings while awaiting their release.

“They had no temporary wing restraints,” Hereford said.

They had no temporary wing restraints. They were ready to fly.

Scott Hereford, biologist Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

The pen has a netted roof, so the birds can fly while waiting to be let go.

The three released Tuesday, on a portion of the national refuge that is just east of Ocean Springs Airport, are about 6 months old, having been raised in captivity at the White Oak Conservation Center near Jacksonville, Florida.

Four raised in the New Orleans area were released into the refuge last week.

The seven join a population of about 125 cranes on the refuge, which is 30 square miles between the Pascagoula River and Ocean Springs.

The National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1975 to protect the endangered Mississippi sandhill crane and its wet pine savanna habitat.

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