Doug Leier: A call out to keep an eye out for whooping cranes

West Fargo ~

whooping cranes
Every year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out a call for people to report sightings of whooping crane, like this pair spotted near Linton, N.D., on Thursday, March 29, 2018. N.D. Game and Fish Department photo

The extended winter or late spring has delayed some migrations, and even though two whooping cranes were verified in North Dakota on March 29, it will probably still be later April before all these birds have worked their way through the state. Whenever that occurs, it’s likely that I will have gone another year without seeing one of these endangered birds alive in the wild.

As a biologist, I practice what I preach and don’t intentionally go out looking for whooping cranes as they make their way from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. That’s a distance of about 2,500 miles each way.

Every year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out a call for people to report sightings of these striking white birds, as a fair number of the 300 or so birds in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population end up on the ground in North Dakota.

Biologists receive several dozen reports a year, and in spring, the first reports typically come in the first week of April, which probably won’t be the case this year.

Within two or three weeks in spring, the birds all move through North Dakota, but in fall the migration isn’t as urgent and reports can come in from late September stretching into late November, depending on weather.

Over the next few weeks as that spring migration occurs, some lucky people will get a chance to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.

These magnificent birds are regarded as unmistakable. I’ve seen them displayed in museums and they stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip.

They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight, they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of two to three birds and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Other white birds, such as snow geese, swans and egrets, are often mistaken for whooping cranes.

The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.

Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location and the birds’ activity. Observers also should look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701) 848-2466, or Long Lake, (701) 387-4397, national wildlife refuges; the state Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, (701) 328-6300, or to local game wardens across the state.

Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers and identify times and migration routes.

To read original article, click here.

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Two-year shooting investigation of Louisiana whooping cranes solved

Louisiana
Photo: Sara Zimorski/ Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

RAYNE, La. – After an almost two-year investigation, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement agents cited Kaenon A. Constantin, 25, and a juvenile from Rayne, for violating the Endangered Species Act, hunting from a public road and obstruction of justice.

Possible fines and sentences

Violating the Endangered Species Act brings up to a $50,000 fine and a year in jail.  Hunting from a public road carries up to a $15,000 fine and six months in jail.  Obstruction of justice brings up to 10 years in jail.

Click here to read more.

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Fairest of them all: Rare white crane hangs out with gray sandhillers near Fort Kearny

crane
A rare white leucistic sandhill crane hangs out Saturday morning with its gray friends in a cornfield west of Fort Kearny State Historical Park. Leucism is a genetic mutation causing partial loss of pigmentation, so many leucistic cranes have some gray feathers. This one appears to be all white. Photo by Lori Potter, Kearney Hub

A quick first glance might leave you to think that this white crane is a whooping crane. However, it is not a whooping crane but a sandhill crane with an abnormality called leucism. Leucism is an abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals (such as birds, mammals, and reptiles) that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring and is caused by a genetic mutation which inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in feathers, hair, or skin.

This rare white-as-snow sandhill crane was spotted Saturday morning in a group of several hundred gray cranes eating in a cornfield west of Fort Kearny State Historical Park.

Read more about this leucistic sandhill crane here.

 

***** 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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friendsofthewildwhoopers.or
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