Web aids high-tech bird-watching

The U.S. Geological Survey has been whooping it up lately, thanks to new World Wide Web sites that monitor the birth and growth of cranes and the migration of pintail ducks.

The April birth of two whooping crane chicks was broadcast live on a special USGS Web page at whoopers.usgs.gov. Pictures of the chicks' progress are included on the site daily, and it also includes interesting anecdotes and crane rearing techniques.

The endangered birds, raised at a USGS breeding facility in Maryland, will be released in Florida in hopes of re-establishing a whooping crane population in the United States, a USGS spokesperson said.

The whooping crane site is not USGS' only interactive Internet location for bird lovers. The agency has been tracking the migration of female pintail ducks from California to Canada to their nesting grounds in Alaska and posting their progress on the Web at www.werc.usgs.gov/pinsat.

By attaching satellite transmitters to the ducks, USGS waterfowl biologists can track their locations. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites receive the transmissions and can determine a duck's location through the changes in Doppler radar readings.

"For the first time we will be able to track this species," said Michael Miller, a USGS biologist. "This new knowledge will aid conservation programs for pintails all along their migration routes"

Biologists post each duck's daily position on the Web. Biologists add pertinent information about the birds' movements, including weather conditions and descriptions of surrounding habitats in a weekly journal.

The crane and duck Web sites are used to educate people about endangered species and are made possible through partnerships with state, federal and local agencies.

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