Every Birdy's on the Move (Almost)

Most of the 2017 hatch year Whooping cranes are now heading back north, and the first adult pair is confirmed on the nesting grounds at Wisconsin's White River Marsh.

The Royal Couple

First pair to return: the Royal Couple
Male Whooping Crane #4-12 is on the left and female #3-14 is on the right.
Photo courtesy of Doug Pellerin


April 4, 2018
by Heather Ray, Operation Migration

The first pair of Whooping cranes confirmed to have arrived at Wisconsin's White River Marsh is the Royal Couple. This pair consists of female 3-14 and male 4-12.

Last year, they nested for the first time in the marsh and the day before the eggs were expected to hatch, a coyote predated the nest. Now that they are back for the season, we’re hoping they have much better luck nesting this year!

Most of the 2017 hatch year Whooping cranes are now heading back north. Here's the status of all the young birds:

2017 Wild-hatched chicks

  • W3-17 (U) has migrated back to Wisconsin with its parents (24-09 and 42-09) and was last seen in Adams Co, WI with 31-16, 29-16, and 39-16.
  • W7-17 (F) left Morgan Co, AL with her parents (14-08 and 24-08), and was last reported in Edwards Co, IL.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort

  • 19-17 (M) and 25-17 (M) are still in Jackson Co, AL likely with adult 37-07 (M).
  • 28-17 (M) left Okeechobee Co, FL, and is in Jackson Co, IN with Sandhill Cranes.
  • 24-17 (M) is still in Randolph Co, IL, however 63-15 has returned to Wisconsin.
  • 72-17 (M) is in Lake Co, FL. She began migration on April 3rd.
  • 30-17 (F) left Plaquemines Parish, LA, and is currently in Hickman Co, KY.
  • 38-17 (F) is still in Dodge Co, WI with Sandhill Cranes. This is the young female crane which failed to migrate south last fall.
  • 39-17 (F) is in LaPorte Co, IN with Sandhill Cranes.
  • 36-17 (F) left Madison Co, FL and is currently in Gallatin Co, IL.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort

  • 3-17 (M) and 7-17 (F) left Morgan Co, AL at Wheeler NWR, and are currently in Webster Co, KY with 69-16.
  • 4-17 (M) and 6-17 (F) left Fulton Co, KY and are currently in Clinton Co, IL.
  • 1-17 (M), 2-17 (F), and 8-17 (F) left Talladega Co, AL and are currently in Lawrence Co, TN

It will be interesting to see if they stop short of Wisconsin to allow the cold weather and snow currently falling to pass.

Of course, the younger cranes are really in no rush to make it back to Wisconsin. They are too young to have selected mates, and with no mates, they have no territory to defend. They still have a couple of years to worry about that type of grown-up stuff.

As of 2 April, the population size of the Eastern flock is 103 Whooping Cranes. Of these, 48 are female, 52 are males and 3 are unknown. The reason for unknown genders is that these 3 are wild-produced cranes, which we were unable to capture before they fledged. Because they were never captured, they never had blood drawn to determine whether they are males or females.

Over and out…

Heather Ray
Operation Migration