78 Whooping Crane Nests Located in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada

by Wood Buffalo National Park staff

A total of 78 nests were located during the 2016 Whooping Crane nest survey in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) and in crane habitat located outside the Park. The survey is a joint project between Parks Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The 78 nests detected is the second highest nest count on record. 71 nests where located within WBNP and 7 nests were located outside of the Park. The highest nest count on record is 82 nests located during the 2014 nest survey.

Improved conditions on whooping crane nesting grounds

Nest numbers increased over last year’s count, when 68 nests were detected during the 2015 survey (the low number of nests detected during the 2015 nest survey is believed to have been related to the low water levels/drought in the nesting area). Nest survey results for the period 1966 to 2016 are shown in the graph below.

Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds

Nest survey results for the period 1966 to 2016

Over-the-bank flooding

Conditions on the nesting grounds were much wetter in 2016 when compared with the conditions observed during the 2015 survey. Water levels on the Sass River and Klewi River were noticeably high. Over-the-bank flooding was observed along the Sass and Klewi Rivers and replenishing waters into the neighboring ponds and wetlands.

Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds

Sass River – Whooping Crane nesting Grounds
John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds

Klewi River – Whooping Crane nesting Grounds John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

 

The survey was conducted over four days, May 19, 20, 22 and 23.  Poor weather conditions on May 22 prevented flying. The aircraft used during survey was an ASTAR 350 B-2 Helicopter.

Whooping Crane nesting Grounds John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

ASTAR 350 B-2 Helicopter
John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

Personnel involved in the survey included:
– John Conkin, Wildlife Technician, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
– Keith Hartery, Resource Management Technician, WBNP, Parks Canada
– John McKinnon, Ecosystem Geomatics Technician, WBNP, Parks Canada
– Katie McNab, Resource Management Officer,  WBNP, Parks Canada
– Howard Vigneault, Helicopter Pilot, Highland Helicopters6.

Observations

Interesting observations during the survey included a total 193 cranes observed over the 4 days. Occasionally the cranes standup and/or walk off the nest mound as we circle above and we get to count the eggs. A total 37 Whooping Crane eggs were observed at 19 of the 78 nests during the survey. 18 nests had two eggs, 1 nest had one egg. (We were unable to determine the number of eggs at the other 59 Nests).

Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds

Whooping Crane sitting on nest. Note crane in center of photo. ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

We observed one pair of Whooping Cranes that were “dancing”. One group of 3 whooping cranes was observed. A lone adult Whooping Crane was observed being harassed by 2 “dive-bombing” red-winged black birds. Two black bears were observed in the nesting grounds. And, on the last day of the survey, a raven greeted us just before take-off, posing for a picture while perched on the tail of the Helicopter.

Whooping Crane Nesting Grounds

Greetings from Raven. John D. McKinnon / ©Parks Canada / Wood Buffalo National Park

 

 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.

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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Whooping Crane “Stopover Ponds/Wetlands” Plans

By Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Landowners and other land managers often contact Friends of the Wild Whoopers wanting to know how they can help endangered wild Whooping Cranes. Normally we discuss needs by phone or email. To simplify the process we have developed a brochure to provide information concerning one major and growing need.

This need is to properly manage existing ponds/wetlands or develop new ponds/wetlands so that they will attract Whooping Cranes. These amazing birds migrate 2,500 miles two times each year between their Canadian nesting grounds and their winter habitats on the Texas coast. During these long migrations they must stop to rest about 10 to 15 times.

While there are about a dozen prime stopover sites on wildlife refuges, migrating Whoopers mostly stopover on small ponds/wetlands on private farms just to rest overnight. Over the years thousands of stopover areas have been destroyed due to changes in land use. As the Whooper population continues to increase there is an increasing need for more stopover sites on private lands. The focus for these ponds/wetlands is in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

If you own land would you share a small amount with Whooping Cranes? And if you are not a landowner, possibly you could partner with one to help prepare a stopover pond. Ponds can be about any size from one-third acre and larger. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has cost share funding and technical support that will provide dollars to landowners needing assistance. It is also important to know that ponds developed or managed for Whooping Cranes also provide habitats for many other kinds of fish and wildlife.

Whooping Crane “Stopover Ponds/Wetlands” Plans

Interested persons are invited to check out our new “Stopover Ponds/Wetland” brochure. It lists features needed in stopover ponds, and provides diagrams to assist you with planning.

Whooping Crane “Stopover Ponds/Wetlands” Plans

Whooping Crane “Stopover Ponds/Wetlands” Plans

If you would like to download a printable PDF version of the Stopover Pond/Wetlands Plans, 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.