Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 15, 2011

The first whoopers have crossed into Canada and only 10 remain in Texas. Two youngsters stubbornly remain in Florida while most of their Eastern flockmates are back in Wisconsin, where nesting has begun! Calculate for #6-10's journey north. Celebrate freedom for the Louisiana cranes with this week's video clip and salute Tom Stehn's help for cranes.

Today's Report Includes:

Image of the Week

Adult male Whooping crane in need of grooming
Image: Sue Kersey

This is a "famous" male from the Western flock. Study the image. What can you tell and what can you learn?

News: Migration Map and Field Reports

Data /Map/Finish Line

With an estimated 385 endangered Whooping cranes migrating north this spring, a sighting is still rare. But thanks to reports from trackers and citizen scientists, see migration progress of both migratory flocks on our MapServer.

Latest News: Western Flock
The first cranes have crossed into Canada! With only 10 cranes remaining and an estimated 269 in migration, 96.4% of the flock has left the Texas winter home. Why do they go so far to nest? More

Latest News: Eastern flock
At least 80 birds have passed the Finish Line! Two crane kids from the ultralight-led class of 2010 stubbornly remain in Florida. When will the last two youngsters leave? More

Migration Math: #6-10's Travels

Female #6-10 began migration from St. Marks NW in Florida on April 3. She completed migration to Necedah NWR this week, on April 12. She traveled about 1791 km. Visit her bio page to find out how many stops she made. Then answer in your journal:

  • How many miles did she fly?
  • How many stopovers did she make?
  • In how many states did she stop?
  • How many days did her migration take?
  • What was her average distance per day?


Whooping crane with flared wings
Image: Klauss Nigge

Nesting Begins: Suspense in Wisconsin

Whoopee! Seven pairs (maybe eight) in the Eastern flock are already sitting on nests!

#505 and #415 #317 and #303
#401 and #508 #216 and #716
#307 and #726 #310 and W1-06
#403 and #309  

How many of these nesting pairs have nested before? What were the results? See:
Nesting Summary, Eastern Flock

Every egg is precious! Video cameras monitor the progress so the parents won't be disturbed. We hope that the parents can incubate for the necessary 30 days without being driven off by pesky black flies, which has been a big problem at Necedah NWR.

Whooping crane incubating and with one hatched chick
Image: Klauss Nigge

With enough pairs for a possible 26 nests, will this finally be a big year for chicks in the new flock? Stay tuned.

Tribute: Tom Stehn's Cranes  

Imagine watching over a flock of endangered whooping cranes on their wintering grounds every year since 1982! You would have felt many worries and many celebrations. That's been biologist Tom Stehn's career. This week Tom told us, "This will be the last flight of the spring unless one additional flight is made in May to see if the 10 have departed. My thanks go to Brad Strobel who has capably taken over the census flights as I wind down towards retirement sometime later this year."
We salute Tom Stehn with heartfelt affection and respect. Here's why:

Tom Stehn carries a sick Whooping crane in winter 2008.
Tom carries a sick crane in the bad winter of 2008. More

"I've had the honor of being the first person to count in 1986 more than 100 whooping cranes at Aransas, and more than 200 in 2004. I'm certainly hoping that next winter will stand out at Aransas with a good chance for the first time of more than 300 whooping cranes ever returning to Aransas NWR, above its current estimated size of 279. That would be a real cause of celebration for a species that 70 years ago numbered only 15 birds in existence in Texas. Wow, what a sensational comeback story for a very majestic and very proud bird! They can do it, if humans will just leave them alone and give them a chance!"

Video: First Flights to Freedom for Louisiana Cranes
Have you ever wondered how the captive young cranes behave when they find the top net is gone and they are—finally—free to fly? Watch to see! A video was made on the joyous day the cranes in the brand new Louisiana nonmigratory flock got their freedom. Watch the first crane's flight. What might he/she be thinking? What do you imagine this crane said to the rest of them after landing again at the pen site? What other behaviors do you notice among the birds? This was a day to celebrate!
Research Question and Quick Links: Helpful Resources to Explore

Research Question: When and how did people find out about the nesting grounds of the Western flock?

See: How the Western Flock's Nesting Grounds were Discovered

Migrating female #519 and nonmigratory male Whooping crane
Image: Billie Dodd
What's the latest news about female #519 and her boyfriends?

Making Good Sightings: Official WCEP Reporting form

More Whooping Crane Lessons and Teaching Ideas!

The Next Whooping Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on April 22, 2011.