Whooping crane migration

Whooping Crane Migration
Whooping Cranes at Father Hupp Wildlife Management Area.

Whooping crane migration for the wild flock of whooping cranes appears to be well underway. Some whoopers have already arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The rest are scattered throughout the Central Flyway, including a few reported at Quivira NWF  in Kansas and areas in Nebraska.

Recently small groups of the whooping cranes have been spotted migrating through Nebraska with a group of five spotted at Branched Oak Lake and a group of six spotted at the Father Hupp Wildlife Management Area, (WMA).

Father Hupp WMA in Thayer County, NE has been temporarily closed due to the presence of that group of six whooping cranes and will remain close until they leave the area. This temporary closure is intended to not only protect whooping cranes, but to also protect the public from accidentally disturbing or harming the birds, which is illegal under federal and state law.

To read more and view a short video and photographs of the whooping cranes in Nebraska on ‘Magazine Outdoor Nebraska’, click here.

Whooping cranes are an endangered species

The entire wild population of whooping cranes is protected by both the federal Endangered Species Act and the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. Penalties for killing, possessing, or harassing whooping cranes or other species protected under these laws may include fines of up to $50,000, up to year in jail, or both.

Public encouraged to report any whooping crane sightings

In Nebraska, report any sightings to: Game and Parks (402-471-0641)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (308-379-5562)
The Crane Trust’s Whooper Watch hotline (1-888-399-2824)
Emails may be submitted to joel.jorgensen@nebraska.gov

In Texas, report any sightings to:
Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Texas Whooper Watch

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***** 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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Luseland Museum Unveils Nature Preserve

by Pam Bates

Luseland Museum

Luseland Museum Whooping Crane " Nature Preserve " Exhibit.
Luseland Museum Whooping Crane Exhibit. Photo courtesy of Val Finley. Click photo to enlarge.

Luseland Museum, a museum in Luseland, Saskatchewan has added a preserved whooping crane to its new “nature preserve” exhibit.

Recent generous donations allowed the museum to expand and create the new exhibit, said founding member of the museum, Val Finley.

“We had the good fortune to find a whooper who had died of natural causes,” Finley said.

The whooper, lovingly named Gwenivere, was made into a specimen for the Museum. But the exhibit won’t be the first time the town has witnessed whooping cranes. When the only remaining wild flock was at its peak, the giant white birds stopped in Luseland on their migration between their nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park and their wintering grounds on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Luseland

Luseland is a small town with about 600 people located in Saskatchewan, 30 miles East of the Alberta border on Highway 31. It is located within the Central Flyway and back in the 1920’s and earlier, whooping cranes were seen migrating through the area.

Just 2-3 miles southeast of town is Shallow Lake, a slough that the whooping cranes seemed to like. It was primarily a resting place for most birds and reports were that whooping cranes did nest there until their population plummeted due to hunting and habitat loss.

Shallow Lake slough

Because of its early history with whooping cranes, in 2012, the Shallow Lake slough was considered a suitable habitat and possible location to reintroduce the species. Unfortunately, the Federal and Provincial governments decided to sell off the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration or PFRA pastures, in which Shallow Lake is situated, putting the plans on the shelf. But Finley says “since then, it appears the Federal and Provincial governments may be rethinking their actions, so we are keeping our fingers crossed”.

The Nature Preserve Unveiling

Luseland Museum Whooping Crane "Nature Preserve" Exhibit.
Luseland Museum Nature Preserve. Photo courtesy of Val Finley. Click photo to enlarge.

The Luseland museum’s expansion allowed for new exhibits to be displayed, including a nature display, rightfully named the “Nature Preserve”. The purpose of the “Nature Preserve” is for education and creating interest in wildlife. Like many nature exhibits, it displays natural grasses, trees and wildlife such as Canada Geese, Grouse, Hawks, a Fawn, baby antelope and various nests with eggs, just to name a few. All of the specimens were collected by the dedicated and hard working members of the museum and local residents.

But what makes the museum’s exhibit stand out the most is the 5 foot tall endangered crane in their exhibit.

Luseland Museum Whooping Crane " Nature Preserve " Exhibit
Luseland Museum Whooping Crane Exhibit. Photo courtesy of Val Finley. Click photo to enlarge.

“Gwenivere” is our star and we now have people dropping into the Museum and their first question is, “How is Gwenivere today?”, Finley said.

So, next time you are traveling on Highway 31, take some time to stop in Luseland and visit Gwenivere in her own natural habitat at the Luseland Museum.

Besides the wonderful educational, historical and nature exhibits, the people running the museum are friendly and more than happy to answer any questions or show you around. While you are there, tell them that Friends of the Wild Whoopers sent you.

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***** 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.

 

Poop, Parasites, and Whooping Crane Conservation

August 10, 2015  |  by: Justine E. Hausheer, science writer for The Nature Conservancy

whooping crane
A whooping crane along the Texas coast. Photo © Kendal Larson/#sthash.22u3zsW0.dpuf

Miranda Bertram has a rare skill ⎯ she can identify whooping crane feces on sight.

She’s certainly had a lot of practice. A Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University, Bertram spent the last two winters tramping around Texas’s Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in search of whooping crane feces to research and document which parasites are present in the population, and if they could be affecting the recovery of this endangered species.

Untangling the Effects of Disease on Endangered Species

Whooping cranes are one of the most well-known endangered bird species in the United States. Habitat loss and hunting reduced their population to just 16 birds in 1941. In the 1970s scientists began captive breeding programs, where captive-raised cranes were eventually released back into the wild to bolster the population.

Today there are 308 wild whooping cranes in the Aransas population, which accounts for the the vast majority of wild whoopers, and they winter in just a few brackish marshes along a narrow strip of the Texas coast. The Aransas population is growing ⎯ 39 juveniles were counted in last winter’s survey ⎯ but whoopers still have a long way to go before the population can be considered stable.

“The population is definitely fragile,” says Bertram, “and at a point where it’s highly susceptible to disease or other catastrophic events.”

Knowing what diseases a species is susceptible to, and what affect those diseases have on a population is critical for conservation efforts.

Read the entire article here at Cool Green Science, The Science blog of The Nature Conservancy.

Interested in reading the entire “Abstract”? Click here. 

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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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Migratory Behavior of Whooping Cranes.

mirgratory behavior of whooping cranes
Two adult Whooping Cranes in flight. ~Chuck Hardin

Probably less than a dozen persons in the past 50 years have actually witnessed the northward departure of whooping cranes (Grus Americana) from their wintering grounds on and adjacent to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Few, if any, have observed a more spectacular exodus than the junior author watched on the morning of 6 April 1966.

On this clear, sunlit day he was conducting a combination routine and spring whooping crane departure date patrol through traditional crane habitat along the east shore road of the refuge. While traveling southwesterly one-half mile north of the northeast corner of whooper feed plot No. 1, he counted 32 of the giant birds within this managed crane feeding area. When he was about 1,000 yards from the cranes, 12 of them arose and flew eastward about one mile and lit along the northwest edge of Sundown (Mullet) Bay. While watching the 12 birds alight, he heard the obstreperous calling of most or all of the remaining cranes and turned to see that these birds had taken to the air. It became apparent later that they were en route to their remote northern nesting area.

Migratory behavior

Shortly after taking to the air, the flock quickly divided into groups of 3, 3, 2, 7, and 5 birds and circled clockwise, upward, and northward in a spiraling motion. The groups of 7 and 5 birds were thought to be yearlings and non-breeders. The remaining groups were family units. The horizontal and vertical separation of the individual groups varied and was estimated to range from 400 to 1,200 feet. The diameter of the circle was judged to be one-fourth mile.

The 20 cranes left the ground at 9:00 am; 12 minutes later they were only visible as tiny airborne specks, and in a few more moments they were no longer discernible through a 7 X 50 binocular.

Winds at the time of departure were from the southeast at about 18-20 mph. Each turn of a group of cranes into the wind resulted in a gain in altitude. As the birds spiraled upward, they maintained their respective positions with no noticeable change in the size or shape of the spiral. They “whooped” continuously as they moved upward and away from the observer. At no time were the 12 birds remaining on the ground heard calling.

Departure observed

Earlier that morning Benham had observed one immature and two adult whooping cranes feeding inside whooper feeding plot No. 2, approximately one mile north of the main body of birds. They had not flown as he passed about 1,500 feet from them. On his return past this spot he noted the three cranes about 500 feet off the ground, spiraling and calling loudly in a manner similar to the previously departed birds. The time was 9:14 am. At 9:19 am, Benham lowered the binoculars to rest his eyes. When the three cranes were last seen, they appeared larger than the 20 birds at last glimpse, so it is possible constant surveillance with the binoculars would have rendered the trio visible for longer than five minutes.

It is reasonable to assume calls of the first departing cranes were heard by the later migrating family because of wind direction, audibility of the cranes’ piercing whoops, and the close distance between the two groups when the airborne flock flew over or within one-half mile or less of the family unit. We hypothesize that the exodus of the 20 birds precipitated the departure of the lone family group.

It is interesting that the first contingent of migrating cranes displayed some aerial territorialism, although they were all observed feeding side by side within the food plot a few minutes before departure.—Robert H. Shields, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Portland, Oregon, and Earl L. Benham, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Austwell, Texas.

[The Auk, April-June 1968, Volume 85, Number 2, Page 318]

 

 

 

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