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Whooping Crane Sightings

Whooper pair 3This page summarizes the latest sightings of Whooping Cranes at or near Quivira.

 Page updated: 29 October 2014

The latest Whooping Crane news

Fall migration began this year with an appearance of 5 Whoopers (4 adults and 1 juvenile) in Big Salt Marsh on the morning October 29.

 

Spring migration (2014) began with a sighting of a family of 3 (2 adults and 1 juvenile) that stopped briefly in the Little Salt Marsh area on March 22.  The last birds were seen on April 4 (although a group of 3 birds were observed at Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area in early May).  A total of 30 were observed in the Quivira area during the spring migration, the lowest number in several years.

 

A total of 65 Whooping Cranes were observed in fall migration 2013, with the first sighting on October 24, 2013 (one adult in the southwest corner of Big Salt Marsh, with a flock of Sandhill Cranes).  The last sighting was on November 23.

 

Spring migration began earlier than usual in 2013, with a probable sighting of six birds on February 8, and six confirmed birds at Quivira on March 6.  Migration continued through March and most of April, with the last confirmed sighting of 3 (2A, 1 banded/radioed J) on the later-than-average date of April 22.  Most significantly, 2013 spring produced the second highest all-time number of confirmed sightings, with 75.

 

Fall migration ended through the Great Plains by the end of November, with some birds having reached Texas by the last week of October.  The first whooping crane sighting at Quivira was a family group (2 adults, 1 juvenile) north of Big Salt Marsh on November 1.  One sighting of 3 birds was reported from Cheyenne Bottoms on or near October 23.  A fairly significant movement of Whooping Cranes occurred in the Quivira area during the period November 4-10, with several dozen being observed during the period.  As of November 28, a total of 73 Whooping Cranes had been reported in the Quivira area this fall: 63 adults and 10 juveniles.  This is one of the highest quantities ever recorded at Quivira during a season.  None were seen in the area after late November.

 

The first spring sightings in 2012 occurred on Friday, 16 March, with 3 adults observed on the west side of the Wildlife Drive at 9:15 am.  The date is right at the average first arrival date for spring whoopers.  One highlight of the spring was the occurrence of a total of 19 whoopers on the morning of 29 March.  The last sighting was a pair of adults north of Big Salt Marsh on Sunday, April 8, but then a single adult was observed leaving Big Salt Marsh on the very late date of May 9!  A total of 47 whoopers were observed during the spring at Quivira.  Migrating whooping cranes are not expected back at Quivira until mid-October, at the earliest.

 

There were unprecedented late December and January occurrences of Whooping Cranes in Kansas and Nebraska during the 2011-2012 winter season.  As many as 11 birds were seen in south-central Kansas, including a family of 2 adults and 1 juvenile. All sightings were sporadic of somewhat "nomadic" birds, occurring on both public and private land.  The same family group (or another - it is difficult to determine which) was observed in southern Nebraska in late January (also unprecedented).  Reasons for these occurrences are difficult to prove, but are possibly due to a combination of the ongoing drought in the southern Great Plains (making food more scarce) and the relatively mild winter.  The table below reflects only Quivira or near-Quivira observations.

 

General Whooping Crane information

Whooping Cranes occur regularly each fall at Quivira, from late October through the month of November.  Each fall season varies  in terms of the total number of cranes reported, but the average through the season is 30-40 birds.  Although sightings of 10-12 birds in one flock occur occasionally each year, most group sizes average 2-5 birds.  Most occur overnight and are gone from the area by mid-morning.  A few groups, or individuals, may stay a week or more before moving on.  Also, during some years a Whooping Crane may linger into December or into the new year.

Whoopers at BSM

 

Spring migration is typically not as dynamic, with the birds passing through the Quivira area quickly.  Sightings in spring are fewer, and of much shorter duration, than in the fall.  Nevertheless, the season is not without its history of surprises:  in spring 2010 a total of 76 Whooping Cranes were reported on the Refuge - on April 1 (no fooling)!


Whoopers in corn

The following table summarizes the most recent sightings.  These sightings are also reported on Kansas Listserv and on our Facebook site.

 

 Whooping Crane Sightings at Quivira, fall 2011-fall 2014

 Date Location Remarks
Fall 2014    
29 Oct 2014 BSM 5:  4 adults, 1 juvenile, nw Big Salt Marsh, 7:32 am; still present 7:50 am
Spring 2014    
4 April 2014 east of Hudson 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile in wheat field along NE 100th Street, 1.5 mile east of Hudson, 3:45 pm; last seen at 4:30 pm
3 April 2014 w of BSM 3:  3 adults, grouped with the 15 shown below; crop field at the corner of NE 80th Ave and NE 160th Street, early afternoon
3-4 April 2014 BSM area 15:  12 adults, 3 juveniles, northwest corner of Big Salt Marsh, 9:15 am. (visibility poor for determining A/J mix); seen better in nw BSM on morning of 4 April - 12A, 3 J; all flew north at 7:30 am
2 April 2014 BSM area 2:  2 adults, west interior Wildlife Drive, last seen 5:40 pm
25-26 March 2014 LSM 4:  4 adults, south end of Little Salt Marsh, 11:20 am; flew west into the marshes w of LSM at 12:30; still present 3:20 pm; last seen 1 mile south of refuge just east of NE 140th Ave. at 9:15 am
22 March 2014 LSM area 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile, landed southwest of LSM at about 11:45 am; took flight (high) at 12:40 pm
Fall 2013    
23 Nov 2013    BSM Area 2:  2 adults, south end of Big Salt Marsh with Sandhill Cranes, last reported at sunset
22 Nov 2013 BSM Area 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile, flats north of NE 170th St., last reported 8:10 am
15 Nov 2013 BSM area 2:  2 adults, west side of Big Salt Marsh, last reported at 7:45 am
13-17 Nov 2013 BSM area 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile, northeast interior Wildlife Drive, first seen at 6:55 am on 11/13; last reported at 7:00 am on 11/17
12 Nov 2013 BSM area 4:  4 adults on the west interior Wildlife Drive, first seen 7:30 am; last reported at 8:00 am
11-12 Nov 2013 BSM area 2:  2 adults on the flats north of NE 170th, 3:50 pm; last reported at 8:10 on 12 November
10-11 Nov 2013 BSM area 11:  10 adults, 1 juvenile, flats north of NE 170th at 5:30 pm to dark; still present at 6:50 am the next morning, but gone by 8:05 am
10 Nov 2013 BSM area 16:  3 adults, flats north of NE 170th at 7:30 am; joined by 10 adults and 3 juveniles at 10:15 am; after briefly landing in the southeast portion of the Wildlife Drive, all 16 flew southeast at 10:30 am
9 Nov 2013 BSM area 3:  3 adults, south end of Big Salt Marsh first thing; took flight south at 9:45 am, last seen 8 mi s of Refuge HQ in flight
8 Nov 2013 BSM area 8:  7 adults, 1 juvenile; first sighted at 7:15 am, flats north of NE 170th Street; flew southeast at 8:20 am
2-4 Nov 2013 BSM area and LSM area 2:  1 adult, 1 juvenile; first sighted at 6 pm northwest BSM, then flew northeast to the flats north of NE 170th at dusk; still present at 8:00 the next morning, but flew west at 8:10; last seen in wheat field north of LSM on 11/4, but flew south at 8:45 am
2 Nov 2013 Little Salt Marsh 2:  2 adults at the south end of Little Salt Marsh, straight west of Observation Tower; first observed at about 9:00 am; lifted off and flew southwest at 10:14 am
31 Oct - 1 Nov 2013 Big Salt Marsh 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile, west side of Big Salt Marsh, 7:50 am; took flight west at 8:10 am (different group than on 10/27, based on bands); these same birds were seen at around 6:45 pm the previous evening on the east flats north of NE 170th Street
27 Oct 2013 Big Salt Marsh 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile, southwest corner of Big Salt Marsh, 7:50 am; took flight south at 10:30 am
24 Oct 2013 Big Salt Marsh 1:  1 adult, southwest corner of Big Salt Marsh, with Sandhill Cranes; last observed 9:15 am
Spring 2013    
22 April 2013 Big Salt Marsh 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile (banded) west of west side of Wildlife Drive, 9:15 am; still present at 9:30 am
15 April 2013 southwest of HQ 5:  5 adults on grassland south and west of Peace Creek unit along NE 110th Street; first seen at 8:30 am
13 April 2013 Big Salt Marsh 3:  3 adults (one banded) in flats north of NE 170th St, north of oil tanks; first seen at 8:25 am, still present at 9:40 am
8-11 April 2013 North Lake 2:  2 adults in flats north of NE 170th at 7:30 pm on 4/8; still present 4/9 at 7:20 am; flew to North Lake at 7:40 am; survived storm on night of 4/9, observed at 7:40 am 4/10; last seen on 4/11 at 7:45 am
8 April 2013 Little Salt Marsh 10:  8A, 2J; flying very low, north from the north side of Little Salt Marsh at 12:35 pm; not present at 1:00 pm
8 April 2013 Unit 14A 4:  3A, 1J; feeding in flooded unit; observed from 10:00-10:35 am; not present 1:00 pm
5 April 2013 Big Salt Marsh 10:  10 birds of uncertain age flying from the west side of Big Salt Marsh to the north at 5:30 pm
1 April 2013 NE 140th St. 12:  12 birds of undetermined age flying north over NE 140th Street just east of the Scenic Overlook at 11:00 am
1 April 2013 Big Salt Marsh 10:  10 birds of undetermined age (due to poor light and birds taking flight), northwest corner of Big Salt Marsh at 7:00 am.  Flew from adjacent to Wildlife Drive and headed north; last seen continuing north from NE 170th Street at 7:10 am.
31 March 2013 Little Salt Marsh 2:  2 adults in the southwest corner of Little Salt Marsh (far side of water from photo blind) at just before 9:00 am; not present at 9:30 am
28 March 2013 Big Salt Marsh 5:  4 adults, 1 juvenile; first observed at 8:00 am to the west of BSM in the uplands, feeding and doing some dancing; flew northwest at 8:50 to a small wetland just inside the refuge boundary, where they were still present at 9:45 am
17 March 2013 Big Salt Marsh 2: 2 adults roosting with Sandhills on in BSM w of the Wildlife Drive, 7:40 am, flew northeast at 8:25 am and landed northeast interior Wildlife Drive (east of oil tanks); not seen 9:00 am
14 March 2013 Big Salt Marsh 1:  1 adult flew in and landed, then took flight to northwest with Sandhill Cranes at 12:30 pm
6 March 2013 North Lake 5:  4 adults, 1 juvenile (banded with green band on right leg) roosting together in the middle of North Lake at 8:15 am.  Last observed at 8:30 am.
6 March 2013 Big Salt Marsh 1:  1 adult with Sandhill Cranes in southwest corner of BSM at 8:00.  Observed flying west with some Sandhills at 8:05 am.
8 February 2013 4 mi. NW of Big Salt Marsh 6:  6 adults in crop-circle field 2 mi. west and 1 mi. south of intersection of NE 170th Street and NE 80th Avenue.  Unconfirmed by Refuge staff.  Considered probable.
Fall 2012    
28 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 2:  2 adults in the south end of Little Salt Marsh, present from 8:15 through 10:50 am; gone by 11:05 am
16 Nov 2012 Big Salt Marsh 1:  1 adult in the southeast corner of Big Salt Marsh, present at 8:00 am, still present at 9:25 am
15 Nov 2012 west of BSM 1:  1 adult flying with a flock of Sandhill Cranes near intersection of NE 170th St. and NE 80th Ave., 8:00 am
14-15 Nov  2012 Big Salt Marsh 1:  1 juvenile in Y-road Wetland northwest of Big Salt Marsh at first light; flew south at 7:27 am on 11/14; still present at 8:30 am on 11/15
10 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile; flew in about 5:00 pm and were seen until dark; not seen the next day
10 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh      2:  1 adult, 1 juvenile, present in late afternoon (4:40 pm), observed flying north at about 4:45 pm; not seen again
9 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 3:  2 adults, 1 juvenile; joined the 15 birds from the night before; present from dawn until all 18 were seen flying south at about 10:00 am
8-9 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 15:  14 adults, 1 juvenile a the north end of Little Salt Marsh at dark (6:00 pm)
8 Nov 2012 Big Salt Marsh 6:  5 adults, 1 juvenile, feeding in grass off the west side of Big Salt Marsh, 3:30 pm
8 Nov 2012 Big Salt Marsh 5:  5 adults northwest of Big Salt Marsh, seen flying southwest at 10:35 am
8 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 4:  4 adults, north end of Little Salt Marsh, flew and landed briefly at 10 am, then took flight to the north at 10:15 am
8 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 4:  3 adults, 1 juvenile, north end of Little Salt Marsh, 8:30 am; seen flying south east at 10:15 am
8 Nov 2012 Wildlife Drive 3:  3 adults, flats in the southeast interior of the Wildlife Drive, 7:30 am; not seen again
8 Nov 2012 north of Big Salt Marsh 3:  3 adults, flats north of Marsh Rd/NE 170th St, 7:30 am, seen flying south at 10:30 am
8 Nov 2012 Unit 62 1:  1 adult, with a pair of Sandhill Cranes, flew southwest at 6:45 am
7 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 4:  2 adults at 2:30 pm, later joined by 2 more at 3:30 pm, totaling four adults; seen taking flight and heading north at 5:45 pm
6-7 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh and south 3:  2 adults and 1 juvenile (family) seen at Little Salt Marsh at sundown (5:30-6:00 pm); then seen the next morning at 8:30 am 1/2 mile west of junction of NE 140th Avenue and NE 50th Street (3 1/2 miles south of HQ)
4-5 Nov 2012 Little Salt Marsh 4:  3 adults, 1 juvenile (believed to be an adult pair + a single parent with a juvenile); sighted 4:40 pm 11/4 - seen flying out 8:17 am 11/5
2 Nov 2012 Reno County, 5 mi. east of HQ 2:  2 adults, just east of junction 4th Avenue and Netherland Road
2 Nov 2012 Big Salt Marsh 2:  2 adults
1 Nov 2012 flats north of Big Salt Marsh 3: (2 adults, 1 juvenile)
Spring 2012    
9 May 2012 Big Salt Marsh 1 adult observed flying north from Big Salt Marsh (last Spring sighting)
8 Apr 2012 Big Salt Marsh 2 adults feeding north of the "Tern Pads" north of Big Salt Marsh
7 Apr 2012 North Lake 2 adults feeding; North Lake is 1 mile north of Big Salt Marsh
5-6 Apr 2012 Big Salt Marsh, Little Salt Marsh 18 total:  13 adults, 3 juveniles north of Big Salt Marsh; 2 adults Little Salt Marsh
4 Apr 2012 Big Salt Marsh 5 adults, west side of Big Salt Marsh (these 5 birds joined the larger group on 4/5)
3-4 Apr 2012 Big Salt Marsh 8 adults, 3 juveniles (11 total), flats north of Marsh Rd (NE 170th St.)
29 Mar 2012 Big Salt Marsh 16 adults, 3 juveniles (19 total!), flats north of Marsh Rd (NE 170th St.); departed by 10:17 am
25 Mar 2012 Big Salt Marsh 6 adults, west side of Big Salt Marsh; observed flying north at 10:15 am
16 Mar 2012 Big Salt Marsh 3 adults, loosely mixed with Sandhill Cranes, west side of Big Salt Marsh (first Spring sighting)
Fall/Winter 2011-12    
24 Jan 2012 Big Salt Marsh 6 adults
26 Dec 2011     rural Stafford County      1 adult with Sandhill Cranes
19 Dec 2011 Big Salt Marsh 1 adult with Sandhill Cranes
12-18 Dec 2011 rural Stafford County 1 adult with Sandhill Cranes
5-11 Dec 2011 Little Salt Marsh 1 adult with Sandhill Cranes; believed to be the same bird sighted 11/19-27
7 Dec 2011 Little Salt Marsh Family (2A, 1J), late evening
19-27 Nov 2011 Little Salt Marsh 1 adult with Sandhill Cranes; last observed 27 Nov, 7:05 am
24-25 Nov 2011 Big and Little Salt Marsh 2A with 2J ("twins"), first on Big Salt Marsh, then the next day on Little Salt Marsh; seen in area farm fields in the morning, but returned to Big Salt Marsh in the evening of the 25th
12-14 Nov 2011 Little Salt Marsh 2 adults; not seen after 9:15 am on the 14th
11 Nov 2011   Big Salt Marsh 6 adults flying over the north end of Big Salt Marsh
7-8 Nov 2011 Little Salt Marsh Family (2A, 1J), last seen 8:15 am
1-3 Nov 2011 Little Salt Marsh 11 adults, 1 juvenile; all 12 birds departed on 3 November
30 Oct-1 Nov 2011 Little Salt Marsh      Family (2A, 1J), left on 31 October
19 Oct 2011 1 mile south of HQ Single adult in flock of Sandhills

 

 

Last Updated: Oct 29, 2014
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