Time to Head North

One hundred Whooping Cranes haven't returned to Wisconsin, nine have return - and one of last year's chicks never left!

Pictured here with a Sandhill crane, Whooping crane #38-17 is the first in the Eastern Migratory Population who failed to migrate south to warmer weather for the winter.
Photo courtesy of Operation Migration


March 13, 2018
by Heather Ray, Operation Migration

What a difference a couple of weeks makes…

At the beginning of March, only one Whooping Crane was in Wisconsin. And she is the only crane that decided to stay put in Wisconsin for the entire winter. A young, Parent-Reared Whooping, number 38-17 is the first Whooping Crane in the Eastern Migratory Population who failed to migrate south to warmer weather for the winter.

Why do you think she didn’t leave? It was certainly cold! And with snow covering the fields, and ice covering the water, there was no food, or suitable roosting areas for her – yet she survived.
She must be a very vigilant bird and is aware of her surroundings at all times.

Staff at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge Co., WI began to put corn out for her in an area she used each day and she was observed several times eating it.

The weather is turning to spring-like conditions and there are now at least two Sandhill cranes hanging out with number 38-17 so at least she is not alone now. There is likely some open water available now for roosting as well.

Let’s hope she forms a bond with either Sandhill’s or Whoopers this year and follows them south next fall!

In addition to the few Sandhill cranes, which have returned to Wisconsin, there are also at least 9 other Whooping Cranes that have returned. They include: 31-16, 10-09, 12-03, 2-15, 28-05, likely 12-11, 5-11 based on territory, and at least two in Juneau County, but we do not have a positive identification on that pair yet.

That leaves close to a hundred Whooping cranes who have decided to spend a bit more time in their warm, winter areas.  It will be interesting to see when the majority of them decide to return.
Stay tuned…

Over and out…

Heather Ray
Operation Migration