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Southern Company helping whooping crane followers track flight progress as Operation Migration's annual journey is under way

ATLANTA, Oct. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Operation Migration's whooping cranes are in the air again, and Southern Company is helping followers keep tabs on the birds' flight from Wisconsin to Florida. 

Southern Company, through its Power of Flight partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), is the presenting sponsor of Operation Migration's daily EarlyBird e-bulletin newsletter, which provides progress reports and other information each morning about the more than 1,200-mile migration. To receive the free electronic newsletter, go to and click the EarlyBird registration link on the "In the Field" page.

Southern Company's EarlyBird sponsorship is part of its continued support for Operation Migration's work to conserve the endangered whooping crane. The annual migration takes a group of young cranes on a journey with the goal of helping the eastern flock reach a self-sustaining level of 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs. The birds are trained to follow an ultralight aircraft south in the fall, a trip that prepares them to return on their own the following spring.

This year's migration of six cranes began Sept. 28 and will conclude at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, south of Tallahassee, Fla. The duration of the migration is heavily influenced by the weather.

"Flying with birds isn't a job, it's a passion," said Joe Duff, Operation Migration CEO, whooping crane project leader and senior pilot. "What we are doing can save a species from extinction. We are grateful for the contributions of individuals and corporate sponsors like Southern Company, which enables our work on this unique project."

Power of Flight, one of three signature Southern Company-NFWF environmental stewardship programs, has supported Operation Migration since 2008. A grant extending the support to 2013 was recently announced.

"The whooping crane migration is one of the most popular and effective environmental stewardship projects that we support. It gets meaningful results while capturing the imagination of so many people who witness the flight along the route or follow the birds online," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "Our association with Operation Migration continues to be a highlight of our environmental stewardship program."  

Since 2001, Operation Migration has played a lead role in the reintroduction of endangered whooping cranes into eastern North America. During the 1940s, only 15 birds existed in the world, although the species was not declared endangered until 1971. Because of conservation efforts, nearly 500 whooping cranes survive today in wild populations and in captive breeding centers.

"Thanks to the strong work of Southern Company's Power of Flight program and other partners supported by NFWF, whooping cranes are beginning a comeback. It's an amazing story," said Carl Kuehner III, chairman of the NFWF board of directors. "You can't help but be inspired by the projects that NFWF makes possible."

In addition to Power of Flight, which funds projects to conserve birds characteristic of the southern United States, Southern Company also is committed to restoring the South's longleaf pine ecosystem through the Longleaf Stewardship Fund and to community watershed conservation through Five Star Restoration.

Through these programs, Southern Company and a diverse group of partners have achieved measurable results, helping to restore more than 922,000 acres of longleaf pine and other critical habitat in the Southeast and introducing hundreds of thousands of people to conservation messages and education.

With 4.4 million customers and more than 43,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company also is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune's annual World's Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings. Visit our website at

SOURCE Southern Company