Whooping Cranes stopover habitats facing more threats

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Whooping Cranes “stopover habitats” are facing more threats on Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, in Kansas. The refuge is experiencing conflicts with neighboring farmers who want to use more water from a diminishing supply.

Stopover habitats are used during the Whoopers two annual 2,500 mile migrations between Wood Buffalo, Canada nesting grounds and Aransas Refuge, Texas winter habitats. Quivira is one of the more important stopover areas along the migration corridor. Other stopover areas are also facing problems due to changing farming practices and developments of all kinds.

Unfortunately irrigation needs on private farms is problematic to Quivira Refuge. Quivira covers 22,135 acres, largely in Stafford County. About 6,000 acres is wetlands.

Whooping Cranes on Qvivira NWR

Whooping Cranes on Qvivira NWR. USFWS Photo

Wetlands a haven for whooping cranes and other migratory birds

Thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl migrating through Quivira each season count on reprieve and water at the salt marshes. Mike Oldham, Quivira’s manager estimates a million birds come through the area in the fall and winter including 61 endangered whooping cranes that stopped over there last fall. Quivira officials want to make sure it remains like that.

“Having the available wetlands is a haven to migratory birds, and timing is everything,” said Mike Oldham. “Water depth is a big deal, too – especially in the spring for shorebirds with short legs that need shallower water.” Oldham added.

Regrettably a decades-long struggle continues between providing enough water for the national wildlife refuge and the needs of private land irrigators who surround it.

After years of attempting to work with stakeholders to find solutions, the service in April 2013 filed impairment with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1957 water right is senior to roughly 95 percent of the basin’s water users. Quivira’s manager Oldham claims, “We’re not receiving the water based on the seasonal needs of wildlife and habitat.” If there is not ample water thousands of migratory birds could be adversely affected including endangered Whooping Cranes

Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes

Friends of the Wild Whoopers and Gulf Cost Bird Observatory (FOTWW – GCBO) are continuing efforts to identify these threats and help resolve them. Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes so they can rest and feed during their two annual 2,500 mile migrations. The FOTWW-GCBO team contends that it is imperative that we provide more help to the only wild Whooping Cranes population remaining on earth.

Our FOTWW – GCBO team has recently been focusing efforts on identifying potential “stopover habitats” on military bases within the 2,500 migration corridor. To-date most military base natural managers that we have met with have been very cooperative and a number of important Whooping Crane habitats are slated for improvements. To read more about our stopover habitat project, click here.

Whooping Crane

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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U.S. military helps secure land for migrating whooping cranes

Last fall, Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) initiated a “stopover” habitat project to help Whooping Cranes during their two annual migrations between Canada and the Texas coast. Stopover habitats are essential so Whooping Cranes can rest and feed during their long migrations. After visiting eight military bases, seventy “ponds” had been determined to be “whooper friendly” stopover habitats. And more “ponds” on these same bases can become good habitats with proper management. More military bases will soon be visited by Friends of the Wild Whoopers and Gulf Coast Bird Observatory personnel to continue the project.

Whooping Cranes

“Stopover” wetland pond on Texas Army National Guard Camp Bowie. FOTWW-GCBO classified this pond to be in excellent condition currently.

FOTWW is pleased that the “stopover” habitat project has caught the interest of our friends in Canada.

U.S. military helps secure land for migrating whooping cranes

CBC News

With plenty of open space, military bases make ideal habitat for resting whooping cranes

“After years at the brink of extinction, whooping cranes are facing a new challenge.

The ponds they use to rest and refuel on their 4,000-kilometre migration from Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the N.W.T.-Alberta border, to Arkansas and Texas are disappearing.

But a group that fights for the preservation of whooping crane habitat has come across a military solution of sorts.

“We contacted the military personnel and asked if they could help us out by selecting some of their ponds to be useful to be stopover habitat for whooping cranes,” said Chester McConnell, an Alabama-based wildlife biologist with Friends of the Wild Whoopers.”

To read CBC News’ article in its entirety, click here.

 

 

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org logo

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.