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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Where are the wild Whooping Cranes and what are they doing?

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Where are the Wild Whooping Cranes?

Wild Whooping Cranes are now on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. They arrived there during late April and May after migrating 2,500 miles from Aransas Refuge on the Texas coast. Each nesting pair located their nesting site which is normally in the same general area as past years. Park records show that several pairs have nested in the same areas for 22 consecutive years. Soon after their arrival on their nesting grounds, they build their nest. Nesting surveys completed to-date indicates that 78 Whooping Crane nests have been observed.

Wild Whooping Cranes

Whooping Crane on nest in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Their nesting territories vary in size but average about 1,500 acres. Whooping Cranes guard their territories and nesting neighbors normally locate their nest at least one-half mile away. Nests are normally constructed in shallow water. Vegetation from the local area is used to construct nest.

Wild Whooping Cranes nesting information

Eggs are usually laid in late April to mid-May. Normally two eggs are laid but occasionally only one and rarely three have been observed in nests. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid. Incubation occurs for about 30 days. Because incubation starts when the first egg is laid, the first chick hatched is about two days older than the second hatched. This difference in age is substantial and creates problem for the younger chick. It is weaker than the older chick and has difficulty keeping up as the adults move around searching for food. The younger chick often dies due to its weakness. Records indicate that only about 10% to 15% of the second chicks hatched survive. Importantly, the second egg plays an important role in providing insurance that at least one chick survives.

From the time Whoopers begin egg laying until their chicks are a few months old, the family groups remain in their breeding territory. They feed there and don’t move long distances until after their chicks fledge.

Wild Whooping Cranes

Whooping Crane Family on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Friends of the Wild Whoopers will publish an update of the ongoing Whooping Crane chick reproduction and related activities soon.

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.

 

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