Counting Whooping Cranes

Wondering what is involved with counting whooping cranes?

Each fall, the natural wild flock of whooping cranes migrates the 2,500 miles from their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for the winter. They live on the Texas coast a few months of the year and they spend that time feeding in the remote wetlands of the refuge and surrounding area. So how do U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists estimate the number of whooping cranes in existence today? The answer: long hours in a small plane flying a grid and looking very, very closely at what is happening on the ground.

While the whooping cranes are in Texas, researchers conduct surveys by plane to gauge the status of the population. They fly several flights and while flying a grid pattern over the refuge, they have to be able to discern which birds are whooping cranes. Can you find the whooping cranes in the photo below?

Counting Whooping Cranes

Birds on the ground, viewed from the survey plane (original photo: Tom Stehn)

 

The data collected from the flights is used to calculate an estimate of the wild whooping crane population. If you would like to see more photos and read more details about how USFWS conducts their aerial surveys on the Aransas NWR, click here.

Counting whooping cranes is not an easy task and FOTWW thanks the USFWS for taking the time and going into detail on how the surveys are conducted.

***** 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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