Until the 17th century, the northern bald ibis called Central Europe its home, and would migrate between there and northern Italy, around Tuscany. However, over-hunting has led to this species being the 12th most endangered bird in the world.

bald ibis

Luckily, avian specialists in Europe have been working tirelessly to try help the species recover, and this year 48 juvenile birds will fly south for the first time. Most of the juveniles will be following an ultra light aircraft that will guide them to their winter homes, where they will be monitored as well. There are a small number of other, adult birds, which have made the trip before and will be flying without the guidance of humans.

Most of the juveniles have been raised by hand, though some have had help from adult birds as well. The project is part of LIFE+ Biodiversity, a joint effort by scientists from around the European Union to reintroduce the northern bald ibis to it’s ancestral home in Central Europe. The project started in 2014, and aims to reintroduce 120 birds to the Alpine foothills by 2019, and have them making regular migratory flights.

Reintroducing the northern bald ibis isn’t expected to heavily impact humans or the local ecosystem. For one, they were supposed to be living there anyway, so while it might take a little while for them, and their new home, to adapt, it shouldn’t be too hard. And furthermore, the northern bald ibis doesn’t have any history of conflict with humans or other animals, so they shouldn’t pose any real problems for people or livestock in the area. And as a bonus, because they’re rare birds that have long been considered interesting and even beautiful, they tend to draw crowds wherever they are. The areas that the birds will soon call home might even get a boost to their tourism!