The two photos below were sent in by Kevin Sims, a fan of FOTWW. The two photos were recently taken on a foggy morning at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and show one lone Whooping Crane foraging deep in the mud for blue crab.
After a short time, some determination, and muddy faced , the whooper is finally rewarded with a blue crab for its meal. By the size of the crab, it might be safe to say that the hunt was worth the effort. That is one large blue crab!
It won’t be long now and the “wild ones” will be thinking about returning to WBNP and nesting. Some of their cousins, the sandhill crane have already started their mirgration. At this time, the wild ones are still enjoying the blue crabs that, thankfully, have been plentiful this winter at ANWR.
Why are blue crabs so important to a Whooping Crane’s diet? The Whooping Cranes require blue crabs to build up their body resources and reserves for their long journey home and for successful nesting. Without a sufficient supply of blue crabs to eat during the winter, their chances of a successful nesting season and raising chicks is drastically reduced. Blue crabs are rich in protein but more importantly, the meat and shells are highly rich in calcium, necessary for strong bones and also for forming eggshells.
In the photo below, you can see a Whooping Crane foraging for blue crabs as one looks on.
With those long pointed bills, the blue crab below was no match for the whooper.
***** 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.
Below is a link to a recording of Whooping Cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, recorded January 26, 1954. The Macaulay Library has twelve different Whooping Crane recordings but this one is by far the best out of the twelve. It talks about 1954 being the first year that they had three young colts successfully migrate with their parents from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. The Whooping Crane population at ANWR for that winter was a total of 24, including the three colts. The first speaker you hear in the recording is Arthur Allen, a renowned ornithologist,for whom the Arthur A. Allen Award is named after. Julian Howard, the second person to speak and mentions the annual count being 24, was the manager of ANWR at the time.
Six months later, the nesting grounds were found at Wood Buffalo National Park and no longer unknown. Very slowly during the past 60 years the flock has increased to approximately 300 in 2013. That’s progress by any measure.