Eleven juvenile whooping cranes were released Tuesday morning from the White Lake Wetlands Conservations Area in Vermilion Parish.
The juveniles were brought to the conservation area on Nov. 9 to begin the adaptation into the wild. The youngsters are placed in pens covered with netting. After a while, they were released into a larger uncovered pen that protected them from most predators while allowing other birds to fly in and these - when they're ready - to fly out.
The 11 released at White Lake all came from the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, according to a news release from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
There are now 72 whooping cranes living in the wild in southwest Louisiana.
Whooping cranes, standing 5 feet 9 (1.5 meters) tall, are North America's tallest flying bird and among the world's rarest with only about 600 alive. About half are in the only natural flock, which migrates between Canada and Texas. Another 137 are captive and nearly 100 are in a flock taught to migrate from Wisconsin to Florida by following ultralight planes.
The near-extinction of the species came about through hunting and habitat loss.