431 Wild Whooping cranes estimated on Aransas NWR primary survey area

 2016 Whooping Crane Winter Survey Results Released

Whooping Crane Winter Survey

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims. Click photo to view full size.

Once again, Terry Liddick, pilot/biologist from our Migratory Birds program, served as a pilot, flying a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cessna 206. This year Phil Thorpe also served as a pilot, flying a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wheeled Kodiak. Observers were Wade Harrell, Jena Moon (Refuges Inventory and Monitoring biologist), Doug Head (Refuges Inventory and Monitoring biologist) and Stephen LeJeune (Chenier Plains Refuge Complex Fire Program). Doug Head (Refuge Inventory and Management biologist) served as survey coordinator.

431 Wild Whooping Cranes Estimated on the mid-Texas coast on and around Aransas NWR.

Whooping Crane Winter Survey

Whooping crane family at Aransas National WIldlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Kevin Sims.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated 431 whooping cranes in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population inhabited the primary survey area  for the winter of 2016–2017.
Whooping Crane Winter Survey

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims. Click photo to view full size

Survey results indicated 431 whooping cranes (95% CI = 371.1–492.7; CV = 0.101) inhabited the primary survey area (Figure 1). This estimate included 50 juveniles (95% CI = 36.3–60.9; CV = 0.144) and 162 adult pairs (95% CI = 139.2–185.5; CV = 0.100). Recruitment of juveniles into the winter flock was 13.1 chicks (95% CI = 10.4–16.6; CV = 0.119) per 100 adults, which is comparable to long-term average recruitment. The precision of this year’s estimate achieved the target set in the whooping crane inventory and monitoring protocol (i.e., CV < 0.10).

Click on the link to see full report: Whooping Crane Winter Survey Results.

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Hurricane Harvey and Whooping Cranes

Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) has had several inquiries about what effects Hurricane Harvey may have had to the wild whooping cranes’ wintering habitat on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The whooping cranes of the wild flock and their new fledglings are still in Canada on their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park. Mike Keizer, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada told FOTWW, “Hope all goes well in Texas. Glad the Whooping Cranes are still here.”

They won’t start their fall migration until the later part of next month and the first whoopers may arrive at Aransas for the winter right after the middle of October, with the remaining whoopers following until the middle of December, which is after the hurricane season.

What salt water from the storm surge that has gotten into the brackish bays will normally be flushed out with fresh flood water flowing in from upstream. Also with the predicted rainfall of 1 to 3 feet, the system should restore itself soon. It is too early to determine if there was any habitat loss and the priority now it to keep the area’s citizens safe, out of harm’s way and back into their homes and/or rebuilding.

Whatever the damage, if any, to the wild flock’s habitat, the flock will endure and survive as it has done over the years.

FOTWW and everyone is concerned about the refuge and surrounding area and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those citizens affected by Hurricane Harvey. We hope that there is no loss of life and little to no damage to property and habitat.

FOTWW will keep everyone updated as we get information.

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