On the Move!
by Heather Ray, Operation Migration
November 10, 2017

Whooping Cranes

Whooping cranes #3-04 and #9-03 are already in Wayne County, Indiana.
Leroy Harrison

November 10, 2017

Whooping cranes in the eastern migratory population are heading south!

Since our last update on September 26th, we know of at least 12 whoopers that are already at their winter territories in Greene County, Indiana and another pair #3-04 and #9-03 are already in Wayne County, Illinois.

Whooping cranes and other birds wait for specific cues to tell them it’s time to head south for the winter. What do you think are some of these cues? Temperature? Wind direction? Lack of food? Well if you chose all of these, you’re right!

Temperature plays a big role and while cold temperatures don’t necessarily bother cranes, the fact that their favorite roosting pond or wetland is frozen over, certainly means it’s not safe to stick around and they’d best get on their way to a location that offers un-frozen water.

Wind direction can help or hinder their travels. Imagine paddling a canoe on a river – going against the flow of water. Very quickly, you will get tired and out of breath. The same principal works for birds in flight. The smart ones will wait for a day when there is a northerly wind to help push them south.

Food is a great motivator for people and birds. We need food to fuel our bodies and birds need food to give them the energy they need to fly such long distances.
As temperatures in the north drop, fewer insects survive. Insects are a large part of the diet of birds so they much head south to find more.

Whooping Cranes

This is the route parent-reared female #26-17 is taking to go south.
Operation Migration and Google Earth

Status of This Year's Chicks
Parent-reared female whooping crane #26-17’s GSM tracking device tells us that she began migration Nov 6th and as of yesterday, Nov 9th, had reached Gibson County, Indiana! What the device cannot tell us is who she is traveling with. We know the areas where she has stopped along the way and these are the same areas where male #11-15 usually stops so it’s probably a safe bet that she is still with him and his buddy Peanut (#4-14) but until someone can get eyes on them, we won’t know for certain.

It appears that #19-17, another Parent-reared whooping crane, is now also migrating. His tracking device tells us he is in Warren County, Indiana. Again, however, we can’t know if he is still with pal #25-17 and the two females: #2-15 and #28-05.

Also on their way south is wild-hatched whooper chick #W3-17 and his/her parents #24-09 & #42-09. This trio was reported in Hopkins County, Kentucky on November 8th.

Even with the cooler temperatures, there are still plenty of cranes in Wisconsin. In fact, the seven costume-reared cranes are still at White River Marsh in Green Lake County and an equal number of parent-reared whooping cranes are also waiting for just the right moment to head south.

Whooping Cranes
Some of the costume-reared cohort fly right over photographer Doug Pellerin’s head.
Doug Pellerin

I bet by the next update, most, if not all of the Whooping cranes will be at their winter homes but we’ll have to wait and see…

Over and out…

Heather Ray
Operation Migration