Imperiled birds must find a new nesting place
the nation’s most treasured flyers have faced extinction over the past half-century — bald eagles, California condors and the majestic whooping crane — scientists have studied how to save them from deep within thousands of acres of forests and wetlands along the Patuxent River.
The crane has defined that work ever since a one-winged bird known as Canus, at the time one of fewer than 50 whooping cranes alive, helped establish the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in 1966.
For decades, biologists at the center near Laurel overcame whoopers’ scarcity by dress- ing as cranes themselves, wearing costumes while rearing the birds. Through trial and error, they learned ways around cranes’ finicky reproductive capabilities, developing artificial insemination techniques and strategically stealing their eggs, a practice that coaxes them to lay even more.
But the era of the whooping crane — and perhaps of any captive breeding of imperiled birds — is ending in Maryland.
Nearly half of the Patuxent whooping crane flock is scheduled to be shipped off to Louisiana next week, and 200 acres of whooping crane pens are expected to empty by the end of the year. The Trump administration moved last year to eliminate the $1.5 million-a-year breedWhen See CRANES, page 21