Whooping cranes migrating from Wisconsin return to Alabama national wildlife refuge

Whooping cranes are back at a national wildlife refuge in Alabama.

The International Crane Foundation said Friday that, for the second year in a row, wild-hatched chick W7-17 was the first to arrive at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur. The two-year-old arrived Nov. 9.

She’s among about 100 whoopers in a flock taught to migrate from Wisconsin to Florida by following ultralight aircraft.

Crane foundation outreach assistant A.J. Binney says about one-third of them winter in Alabama. So do about 20,000 sandhill cranes.

A tracking map shows about 14 whooping cranes at the refuge.

The refuge website says whoopers have been seen around the visitor center and wildlife observation building in recent years.

The refuge’s annual Festival of the Cranes will be Jan. 11-12 at the visitor center.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.