First examples from Northern America
Between 1989 and 1994 the Canadian amateur ornithologist William Lishman made his first experiments with geese and a microlight aircraft. In 1993, he imprinted Canada Geese on his microlight and subsequently migrated with them from their breeding area near Toronto over a distance of 800 km to the wintering grounds in Virginia. In the following year, he flew with another flock of Canada Geese over a distance of 1300 km to South Carolina.
The result was incredible: In the subsequent years most geese of both flocks did find their way back into their original breeding areas.
Lishman's flight with the Canada Geese was the inspiration for the book and cinema movie "Fly away home" ("Amy und die Wildgänse").
In subsequent years, the almost extinct Whooping Crane (Grus americana) and Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) were re-introduced by this method in the USA.
Lishman's Website: Operation Migration
Re-introduction of Whooping Cranes
In 1949 less than twenty Whooping Cranes remained. Losses of habitats, egg collecting and hunting were the main causes for the decline of the population and had almost led to the extinction of the species. Today about 188 Whooping Cranes are breeding again in North-Western Canada. They spend their winters at the Coast of Texas. Adequate protection measures, research on living conditions as well as changes in land management were major factors for success.
This project was a balanced mixture of protection measures of habitats and individuals as well as breeding in captivity and the re-introduction of Whooping Cranes. Like young geese, young cranes have to learn their migratory route from their parents or in case of the microlight project from the microlight aircraft. The running project showed to be a successful use of microlight aircrafts for saving birds from extinction.
Project Trumpeter Swan
Re-introduction in Eastern USA of the rare Trumpeter Swan has led to a stable population. Like cranes and geese young Trumpeter Swans do not know where to fly and would stay on the grounds used for re-introduction, if no one shows them where to go. By using microlight aircrafts as foster parents, it was possible to re-introduce birds and teach them a natural migratory behaviour.
Link to Trumpeter Swan Migration Project:
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