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Whooping crane at Aransas.CreativeCommons.jpg: A juvenile and adult whooping crane. Photo courtesy of Keith Carver/Creative Commons.

A juvenile and adult whooping crane. Photo courtesy of Keith Carver/Creative Commons

Whooping crane chicks expected to head north

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership membersĀ  areĀ  awaiting the return to Wisconsin of 16 young whooping cranes and hoping the coming breeding season exceeds the promising results achieved last year.

The 2017 cranes represented a mix of birds hatched in the wild, birds hatched in captivity and raised by adult cranes at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, and birds hatched at Patuxent and raised by Operation Migration’s costumed handlers in Wisconsin and released over the summer into the company of adult cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership partners are also keeping close tabs on a captive-reared crane released in Wisconsin last fall that did not migrate south with other whooping cranes. Earlier efforts to trap the bird and transport it south weren’t successful, and with whooping cranes soon starting their return trip to Wisconsin, partners decided to let the bird remain at its wintering location. They have been providing supplemental food and checking on the young crane frequently.

“Whooping Crane 38-17 has so far successfully wintered in Wisconsin, and that’s a novel event as far as I know,” said Davin Lopez, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist working on the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.

The 2017 breeding season yielded some exciting results: two wild chicks hatched and survived to fledge, and a young pair nested for the first time in an area biologists refer to as the Wisconsin Rectangle in the southeastern part of the state. Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership has focused on placing birds in this area that includes Horicon Marsh and White River Marsh since 2011. Prior to that, the focus was in Juneau County in central Wisconsin until it was discovered that biting black flies contributed to cranes and other species abandoning their nests. Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership partners are also conducting research in Juneau County to determine causes of pre-fledge mortality.

Whooping cranes have historically started spring migrations in February. As of February 1, the current estimated Eastern Migratory Population size is 104. Of those, one whooping crane is still in Wisconsin, three were in Illinois, 32 in Indiana, eight in Kentucky, six in Tennessee, 33 in Alabama, four in Georgia, seven in Florida and two in Louisiana. The remaining cranes could not be located.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

To report whooping crane sightings, visit the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership webpage.

Republished from a Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership news release.

Last updated: June 8, 2020