A Record 164 Whooping Cranes Now Incubating Eggs

A record number of 164 whooping cranes are currently incubating their eggs in the 82 nest counted recently by the Canadian Wildlife Service in its annual survey. These endangered birds all nest in and around Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), Canada. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an estimated 300 whooping cranes migrated to Canada from their winter habitat on Aransas Refuge, Texas. Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) consider, based on this information that it is likely that over 50 percent of these wild whoopers are involved with nesting.

Whooping cranes making unison call at nest with chick, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. photo by Brian Johns
           Whooping cranes making unison call at nest with chick, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.         photo by Brian Johns

This year, the 82 whooping crane nests counted on Wood Buffalo is an increase from 74 discovered this time last year. This number surpasses a previous record of 76 nests, set after a survey conducted in spring 2011.

So what is currently going on in the nesting area? Most likely the whoopers had laid their all their eggs before the nest survey was completed. Research on whooping cranes nesting has been conducted over many years and unlocked some of the giant bird’s secrets. FOTWW has reviewed some of the research and summarized it here for you.

Whoopers normally lay their eggs in late April to mid-May, and hatching occurs about 1 month later. Based on past research, approximately 90% of the nest will contain 2 eggs, 9% will contain 1 egg and 1% will contain 3 eggs.  Eggs average 100 mm in length and 63 mm in width. Whooping crane pairs share in incubation of the eggs. Incubation lasts from 29 to 31 days.

Whooping crane eggs on nest.
Two eggs in nest.
Credit – Michael Seymour

Incubation ends when the light brown eggs hatch. Whooping cranes may re-nest if their first clutch is destroyed or lost before mid-incubation. Fortunately, egg predation is uncommon, and re-nesting by whooping cranes is believed to be rare.

So, normally whooping cranes usually produce clutches of 2 eggs laid 48 to 60 hours apart. Incubation begins with the first egg laid. Therefore, hatching of the eggs does not occur at the same time. Normally the first chick hatched is one or two days old before than the second is hatched. According to some research, eggs laid after incubation has begun (the 2nd egg) usually only produce fledged young if the earlier laid egg fails to hatch or the chick dies soon after hatching.

While whooping cranes may lay 2 eggs, only about 10% of whooper pairs migrating back to their Texas winter range have 2 chicks. About 90% of nests therefore contain 1 egg that is unlikely to result in a fledged chick. Still, the second egg plays a possible role in providing assurance that at least one chick survives. In nests with 2 eggs, the first hatched has the greater chance of survival in the wild because the parents can provide better care to a single chick.

Except for brief intervals, one of the parents normally remains on the nest at all times. Chicks are capable of swimming shortly after hatching; however, parents and young return to the nest each night during the first 3 to 4 days after hatching. Later, parents brood their young wherever they are at night or during foul weather. During the first 3 week after hatching, whooping crane families generally remain within about one mile of the nest site.

Whooping cranes are good parents and find food for their chicks, protect them from predators and teach them the migration route between Wood Buffalo National Park and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Likely some of the whooper chicks have already hatched and others will soon. FOTWW is hopeful for a record number of chicks following the record number of nests. Canadian Wildlife Service personnel will soon be taking to the skies to count the chicks.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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Banner Year for Whooping Crane Nests

Record-breaking number of 82 nests counted

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A record 82 whooping crane nests were counted in an annual survey around the Wood Buffalo National Park region.
Photo: Klaus Nigge

An annual survey tallying nests of endangered whooping cranes in and around Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) has been completed and the final results are record-breaking.

This year, 82 whooping crane nests were counted, up from 74 discovered this time last year. This number surpasses a previous record of 76 nests, set after a survey conducted in spring 2011.

“The general trend is for the number of nests to be increasing year after year as the population grows,” said Mark Bidwell, a species at risk biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service.

To read Northern Journals entire article, click here.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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Canadian Ronnie Schaefer and Whooping Cranes

Ronnie Schaefer is a person who loves to be outdoors and in contact with wild things. He was born and raised in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada which is in the midst of an abundance of wild places and wild critters.  Ronnie claims that Fort Smith is one of the best small towns in Canada and is the gateway to Wood Buffalo park. So he is contented. He feels fortunate to live in the area. One of Ronnie’s passions is whooping cranes. For the past 18 years he has been observing whooping cranes near Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. This is his hobby.

Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park is the nursery habitat where whooping cranes perform their courtship dances, build their nest, lay their eggs and hatch their chicks. According to Environment Canada, an estimated 300 whoopers made the 2,500 mile migration back from Aransas Refuge on the Texas coast to Wood Buffalo during April and May. A Canadian Wildlife Service official explained to Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) that “This flock is the only self-sustaining, wild whooping crane flock on the planet and we need to do our best to protect the birds and their habitats”.

Whooping crane in Wood Buffalo nesting habitat. photo by Ronnie Schaefe
Whooping crane in Wood Buffalo nesting habitat. photo by Ronnie Schaefer. Click on photo to view full size.

Ronnie told FOTWW that “I watch the whooping cranes as they migrate onto Wood Buffalo National Park. And then I drive out into the rugged terrain in my 4-wheel vehicle and set up an observation blind.” Ronnie explained that he does not want to interfere with the whoopers so he is careful not to get too close to them.

As part of his mission he also tries to keep other people from getting too close to the birds. He places signs in appropriate locations to warn people not to encroach near to the birds. Then, from his special location Ronnie watches some of the cranes perform their mating dances and build their nests.

Ronnie explained, “I focus my attention on whoopers that use the Salt River First Nation reserve lands downstream from Lobstick Creek. The Reserve is about 20 miles from Fort Smith.” According to his observations, the whoopers returned to Wood Buffalo from Aransas, Texas about 3 weeks ago.  Soon thereafter they began nesting. He advised that 2 whooping crane nest can be observed from his observation site. The 2 nests are about 3 miles apart.

Interestingly, Ronnie told FOTWW, “ The original ‘famous’ Lobstick pair of whooping cranes actually nests near my observation site which is outside the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park. The pair has been nesting there for the past 18 years.” Also, he informed us that 2 offspring of the Lobstick pair had been nesting in the same vicinity for the past 3 years and that they had produced 3 chicks. Ronnie named the 2 Lobstick offspring “Snow flakes” and “Snowball”.

As part of his voluntary commitments Ronnie cooperates with officials of the Canadian Wildlife Service. He advises them about his whooper observation as well as providing information about potential problems in the area. During recent discussions with a Wildlife Service official Ronnie was told that 82 whooping crane nests had been counted as of June 4, 2014. FOTWW is waiting on the official report for final verification. 82 nests would be the largest whooping crane nest count ever made.

FOTWW is delighted to have linked-up with Ronnie Schaefer. He is one of those rugged individuals who is committed to the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock of wild whoopers and we need more like him.

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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Wood Buffalo National Park-Birthplace of Whooping Cranes

Wood Buffalo National Park – Birthplace of Whooping Cranes

 

Wood Buffalo National Park - Birthplace of Whooping Cranes.Whooping Crane Chick.
Photo by Tom Lynn © Tom Lynn

In the Canadian north, where Alberta meets The Northwest Territories, lies Wood Buffalo National Park, where endangered Whooping Cranes dance, nest, and raise their young. “I like to describe Wood Buffalo National Park as a place of superlatives,” says park superintendent Rob Kent. “Visitors can see pristine ecosystems, 5,000 bison, 150-pound wolves, and the largest freshwater delta in North America.” When summer ends and the juvenile cranes are able to fly, they migrate 2,700 miles to their wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

 

Click on the PODCAST and follow the Transcript to get a better perspective.  Brought to you courtesy of BirdNote!

 

 

Transcript:
BirdNote®

Wood Buffalo National Park – Birthplace of Whooping Cranes

Written by Chris Peterson with special thanks to Rob Kent, WBNP Superintendent

This is BirdNote!

[Calls of Whooping Cranes]

In the Canadian north, where Alberta meets The Northwest Territories, lies the huge Wood Buffalo National Park. Here the Peace and Athabasca Rivers run through fescue grasslands, boreal forests, and wetlands of international significance. Here one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Whooping Crane, comes to dance, nest, and raise its young.

[Calls of Whooping Cranes]

“I like to describe Wood Buffalo National Park as a place of superlatives,” says park superintendent Rob Kent. “Visitors can see pristine ecosystems, 5,000 bison, 150-pound wolves, the largest freshwater delta in North America, and fire and ice that shape things on a grand scale. [Jump in a Cessna 210, and it’ll take you almost two hours to fly across.]”

[wolf howl followed by wetland]

The world’s last completely wild flock of Whooping Cranes – about 275 – returns in spring to a vast mosaic of marshes and shallow ponds. In summer, with 20 hours of daylight, you can almost hear the explosive growth of plants and insects. [Insects] The insects become food for the dragonfly larvae that become food for the birds. [With their necks outstretched, the birds can stand five feet tall.]

When summer ends and the juveniles are able to fly, the cranes fly 2,700 miles to winter on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

[Calls of Whooping Cranes]

[The immense dark skies of the park now dance with northern lights.]

See videos and learn more at birdnote.org.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of Whooping Cranes [2748 and 2749] recorded by George Archibald; honey bee and other insects [60446] recorded by V.J. Ketner.

Nature SFX sounds recorded by Gordon Hempton of Quietplanet.com. #18 stream flowing, #63 coniferous forest with insects, ravens and other birds; wetland pond with morning birdsong #97

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org    April 2014   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#     WHCR-woodbuffalo-01-2014-04-17 WHCR-woodbuffalo-01

Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population
of wild whooping cranes and their habitat
. *****

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friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

 

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