Whooping Crane Migration Update: March 23, 2012
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Whoop, whoop and away! The first birds in the Western Flock have been reported in the flyway. A whopping 70 cranes in the Eastern Flock are already back on the Wisconsin nesting grounds. How does migrating in small groups leaving at separate times help the species survive? Meet a long-lived survivor!

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Family of Whooping cranes in flight
Photo: Laura Erickson
Why Small Groups?
News: Migration Underway

Migration is in all stages: Some birds are still preparing on the wintering grounds, some are traveling, and some have already reached their nesting grounds.

Eastern Flock: At least 70 of this flock's 107 cranes are already back in Wisconsin. Thanks to southerly winds, March 11 was a big homecoming weekend at Necedah NWR. All individual crane bio pages have been updated, so check on your favorite crane. Click this map for more details, including the status of our darlings in the Class of 2011.

Western Flock: Radio signals from the flock's few banded birds and sightings of Whooping cranes from the flyway indicate that migration has begun! Some of the Whooping cranes that wintered in Texas (or Kansas or Nebraska this year) have begun their northern migration back to their nesting territories in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Some biologists believe that the recent unusually warm weather may have brought an earlier-than-usual northern migration.

We may never know if this flock reached the hoped-for total of 300 birds expected on the wintering grounds during 2011-2012 because weather foiled attempts to count the whoopers on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Also, some birds never reached Aransas NWR, stopping short in Kansas and Nebraska.

Map shows Eastern flock distribution as of March 20, 2012.
Map: ICF & WCEP Monitoring and Management Team
Where Are the Cranes?
Whooping cranes
Photo: Debra Potts
Welcome Home
Slideshow: Survivor of Many Migrations

Migration is tied to species survival, yet migration is a risky journey. Whooping cranes can live a long time— 20 years or more in the wild. Think about how many challenges these long-lived birds have survived and conquered in all the spring and fall migrations of their long lives! This week's slideshow tells the story of a crane that may be migrating right now. He is a member of the Western Flock. We think that the Lobstick male is one of many extraordinary cranes who have completed many epic migrations!

Cover for slideshow: The Lobstick Male: Crane Extraordinaire

Observe and Wonder: Ask The Expert Now Open!

Explore the life of a Whooping crane through images in this photo gallery. As you look, what do you wonder? Will you know a whooper if you see one? Can cranes swim? When do they learn to fly? How can you tell when a crane has a mate? Or if a pair has built a nest? Challenge yourself to ask at least two questions about each photo. Our crane expert, Laura Erickson, eagerly awaits your questions.

Ask the Expert
Special thanks to Laura Erickson for sharing her time and expertise again this year to answer your questions about Whooping cranes.

You still have another week to prepare and submit your questions to Laura. She always has the answers!

Ask the Expert Now Open
March 16 - March 30, 2012.


Photos of Whooping cranes to spark curiosity
Laura Erickson, Journey North's robin expert
Photo: Marie Nitke
Laura Erickson
Migration Maps: In Progress
Fewer than 400 Whooping cranes make up the migratory populations, but we can watch the migration progress of both flocks — ALL the world's migratory Whooping cranes — live on our MapServer with the help of confirmed sightings by citizen scientists.
Migration Route of Western Migratory Population Migration route of Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) Whooping Crane Map
Western Flock
Migration animation
Eastern Flock
Migration animation
The next Whooping Crane Migration Update: Posting on April 6, 2012.