by Sara Sneath ~Victoria Advocate
ROCKPORT – Colts in the only wild, self-sustaining flock of endangered whooping cranes have lost much of their cinnamon color.
The almost 5-foot-tall birds have taken on the white plumage of adulthood during their past few months in Texas. Every year the birds fly about 2,700 miles south from their nesting grounds in Canada to their wintering grounds on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys the birds while they winter in the state. While the service conducted several flights over the wintering grounds in December to count the birds, the survey results will not be available until later in the spring, said U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator Wade Harrell.
Poor flying conditions meant observers were unable to count four of the nine days they had pilots and planes available. So observers plan to go out again in February to tally birds in the areas they missed.
Last year, the service estimated 329 birds used the primary wintering range; additional birds were seen outside the survey area. That’s up from less than 20 birds in the 1940s.
The flock’s remarkable recovery has made the birds some of the most famous winter Texans.
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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.