State wildlife officials have released 16 juvenile whooping cranes into the wild.

The birds were delivered to the state on Dec. 1 and were released on Tuesday in the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Gueydan, according to a statement from the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department.

The cranes had been flown to the site in Vermilion Parish from a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife research center in Laurel, Md.

The juvenile cranes join three adults that were released in March as part of an experimental population being monitored by the state wildlife department. State wildlife officials are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a non-migratory population in the state.

Whooping cranes are protected under the federal Endangered Species and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts and by state law.

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The group of birds released in March marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.

Of the 10 that were released in March, at least three have survived. Wildlife officials said earlier this month that two were killed by predators, one was euthanized due to illness, two are unaccounted for and two were killed by juvenile hunters.

According to the state wildlife department, whooping cranes are large-bodied, white birds similar to white ibis, white pelicans, and wood storks, all of which must be distinguished from legally-hunted snow geese.

Whooping cranes are distinctive because of their red heads and black facial markings, and because they grow to a height of 5 feet with a wingspan of as much as 8 feet. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips and fully extended necks and legs.