Somerset

Second batch of 17 cranes released onto Somerset Levels

Crane at Slimbridge
Image caption The chicks have been learning from the older cranes that were released into the wild a year ago

A second batch of crane chicks have been released onto the Somerset Levels as part of a five-year project to reintroduce them into the wild.

At the end of August the 17 chicks were given a "soft release" where they could fly in and out of the aviary.

In the past few days they have begun roosting and bonding with the first batch of birds released in August 2010.

Project manager, Damon Bridge said: "They establish their hierarchy through bullying and intimidation."

'Very aggressive'

A group of 21 crane chicks were released onto the wetlands in August 2010 after being hatched at Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire but since then three have died.

In the last two months, the second batch have been monitored to ensure they have been settling into their new habitat.

"Last year we were much more hands on, we were effectively the parents for the birds and we led them out to food dressed as cranes in grey hooded costumes.

"This year, we've done a bit of that but the older birds lost their attachment to those grey suited figures, so they would fly away as soon as we turned up.

"After a couple of weeks they came up and were very aggressive so we avoided going out with them quite so often," said Mr Bridge.

Instead the crane chicks have begun using the older cranes as role models to learn how to behave in the wild which is what the wildlife experts prefer to see happen.

The aim of the project is to release around 100 birds which the project organisers hope will develop into 25 breeding pairs by 2020.

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