National

Ultralight aircraft guides migrating whooping cranes

While you were digesting leftover turkey last weekend, 14 endangered whooping cranes were making their way across western Kentucky.

The birds were following an ultralight aircraft on their way from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka and St. Marks national wildlife refuges along Florida's Gulf Coast.

In 2000, pilot Joe Duff led juvenile sandhill cranes across the sky near Pewee Valley, in a precursor to this year's trip with whooping cranes, which are far more rare. These cranes, the tallest birds in North America, left the Necedah refuge on Oct. 17. Kentucky is one of the seven states that the ultralight-guided migration will fly over before reaching Florida.

The birds passed over Marshall County on Saturday. Each fall, the ultralight guides a group of whooping cranes south. The birds make the return trip the next spring on their own.

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