JEFFERSON DAVIS PARISH, La. (AP) — In a southwest Louisiana crawfish pond, two endangered whooping crane chicks peck about for crawfish, insects, plants and other food.
They’re only 2-months-old, but they dwarf the full-grown great egrets nearby. Their tall white parents bugle alarm at an ATV and people across the pond, and all four cranes move farther away.
Across the state in New Orleans, a downy captive-bred brown chick scampers after a keeper whose white costume looks like a Halloween ghost. She bends over and uses a crane puppet-head to pick up an insect and pass it to the chick.
The chicks — both those in the wild and captivity — are part of generations of work to bring back the birds, which barely escaped extinction in the 1940s. This year, Louisiana scientists are celebrating a milestone — five chicks born in the wild.
That’s the highest number of hatchlings in Louisiana’s wilds since scientists started reintroducing the birds there in 2011.
“We’re excited,” said Sara Zimorski, a biologist with Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “That’s the most that have hatched since the program began.”