National Wildlife Refuge System

Record Number of Crane Chicks at Necedah Refuge, WI

A whooping crane sits on a nest at Necedah Refuge, WI.
Credit: Brad Strobel/USFWS

May 27, 2014 - A record ten wild whooping crane chicks have hatched on and around Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. The first chick hatched on May 8 and was spotted by intern Trevor Lauber, who said, “I was specifically looking for a colt since we thought there was a chance they would hatch today and sure enough, there was a little, brown fluff ball next to the parent sitting on the nest.”  Now a second “fluff ball” has joined the first. 

The first chick was assigned the number W1-14: W is for wild, 1 for the first hatch of the year and 14 for the year. These numbers are added to bands around the crane’s legs to identify the birds so they can be tracked during fall migration and subsequent seasons.

Two Cranes
These two whooping crane chicks are among a record ten hatched at or near Necedah Refuge, WI, this month.
Credit: Brad Strobel/USFWS

The first 80 days are the most difficult for newly hatched cranes as they grow enough feathers to fly. They often succumb to bad weather or predators.  Between 2005 and 2013, 22 whooping cranes hatched at Necedah Refuge but only six fledged according to refuge biologist Brad Strobel.  He is hoping for a good year for the cranes in 2014 after several difficult years.

Necedah Refuge manager Doug Staller says there are still a number of nests with unhatched eggs,
adding that the first wild-hatched chick in the history of the eastern U.S. population has now successfully hatched one chick. The Eastern United States migratory crane population now numbers 106 cranes, up from virtual extinction in the 1940s.  There are about 600 cranes now, about 445 in the wild.

Last updated: May 27, 2014