Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Whooping Crane Migration Update: February 25, 2005

Today's Report Includes:

Welcome to the Spring Season!
They stand nearly five feet tall. Their wingspan is wider than most cars. And they're an endangered species. Right now, the world's 262 migratory whooping cranes (in two flocks) are on their wintering grounds. They have just a few weeks to prepare for their spring migration north. We're glad you can join us!

Left: The rare Lobstick twins (named for the family territory) and a parent at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas last winter.
Middle: Some of the youngest chicks in the new Eastern flock, happily mucking in the mud of their Florida wintering site at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Right: Lara Fondow, crane tracker from ICF, readying her equipment for tracking the tiny new Eastern flock.

Get Ready to Track Whooping Crane Migration
Again this spring, we will track the migrations of both migratory flocks:
  1. The young, new Eastern Flock wintering in Florida—reintroduced with the help of ultralight aircraft and a dedicated partnership of pilots and biologists.
  2. The original, larger Western Flock wintering in Texas—the only natural, wild, self-sustaining migratory flock in the world.

Which Eastern flock chick (hatched in 2004) is drinking from the fresh-water bubbler in the Florida winter pensite? Click photo to enlarge. Then see 2004 Banding codes to learn its identity.
Photo WCEP

Historic Times for Whooping Cranes: Tom Stehn's Report
These are historic times for whooping cranes. Only 15 wild migratory cranes remained in the early 1940s. In 2004 they achieved a thrilling and long-awaited goal: passing the 200 mark for the first time since counts were started in the 1930’s! And in 2001, with ultralight aircraft leading the way, the first captive-bred birds for a new flock of migratory whooping cranes were reintroduced to the eastern U.S. Now wild whooping cranes are flying in skies where they'd vanished for over a century.

Whooping Crane Coordinator Tom Stehn says, "The beauty of these long-lived birds and their extreme peril of extinction captured the hearts of many people. These efforts have made it possible for the species not only to persist, but also begin to recover against tremendous odds." Don't miss Tom's full report about the "A+" year the whoopers just had. See Tom's story of the day he discovered the record-breaking total, and find fun facts for showing off your knowledge:

Whooping Crane Population Recovery: How's it Going?
These graphs show growth of (1) the self-sustaining Western flock and (2) the new reintroduced Eastern flock. As Tom Stehn said, endangered whooping cranes are beginning to recover, against tremendous odds. In 2001, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) began efforts to establish a second migratory flock as further protection against extinction. Those young cranes and planes are the ones you follow with Journey South. The WCEP project has now been underway for 4 years. How is the new Eastern flock progressing? How successful do you think the reintroduction has been so far?
How's it Going?

Whooping Crane Population Recovery
Photo Overview

Original (Western) and new (Eastern) Migratory Flocks New, reintroduced Eastern Flock Only

Bobcat Strikes at Florida Wintering Grounds
Lara Fondow, crane tracker on duty at the Eastern flock's Florida wintering grounds, made a sad discovery on Feb. 6. She found the remains of whooping crane #214 approximately 1 mile from the Chassahowitzka winter pen where the youngest flock members stay. This almost-3-year-old female crane had apparently been killed by a bobcat on February 1 or 2.

As a chick (HY2002), crane #214 was eager to work with the ultralight and costumes. What things was this brave bird the only one in the flock to do? Last fall she was the first in the eastern flock to reach the Florida wintering grounds. Finding no whoopers at the pen site, she went off to another area. What happened when she later came back? Find answers in her life story, here:

Challenges of Rebuilding an Endangered Species
We've said that only 15 wild migratory whooping cranes survived in the early 1940s. the US and Canada have teamed up and worked hard to help the wild whoopers. It took over 40 years for the Aransas/Wood Buffalo (Western) population to reach 100 birds, and another 18 years to reach 200. The new Eastern flock is slowly growing too, with gains and losses. Why does rebuilding an endangered species take so long? Next time we'll hear more but for now, think about this:

Everybirdy's Got a Story: Challenge Question #1
Why was the death of Eastern flock female #214 of such concern? What is now the ratio of males to females in the new Eastern flock? What happened to each of the cranes that is no longer in the flock? How many different examples of challenges to survival can you find? What are the challenges in rebuilding an endangered species? Discover for yourself by reading the life stories of the whooping cranes in the tiny new Eastern flock. Find them here:

As you spend time getting to know the flock, make up your own list of "Twenty Questions" to stump your friends. Then send us your answer to:

Challenge Question #1:
"What has been the biggest risk to survival of the new Eastern cranes? Back up your answer with examples from individual crane biographies."

(To respond to this question, please follow instructions below.)

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

1. Address an e-mail message to: jn-challenge-crane@learner.org
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #1.
3. In the body of EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above. (Thanks for including the name of your school and town, too.)

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on March 11, 2005.

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