Egg incubation underway by Wood Buffalo’s wild Whooping Cranes

by Chester McConnell, FOTWW

Important incubation period for wild whooping cranes

Whooping Cranes
Whooping crane adult tending to recently hatched chick – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Wild Whooping Cranes on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada are currently in the important period of incubating their eggs. In fact some chicks may have already hatched. So incubation of eggs and parenting chicks is the current focus of the wild Whooping Cranes associated with their record breaking 98 nests at Wood Buffalo. Attending their nest and incubating eggs is one of the most trying times for the cranes. One member of the crane pair must remain on the nest during most hours of the day. They normally lay two eggs which must be kept warm during the 29 to 31 days of incubation to successfully produce chicks. Importantly the eggs must also be protected from predators including raven, mink, black bear and fox.

Nesting survey a joint effort

whooping cranes
Raven stealing whooping crane egg – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Mike Keiser of Parks Canada reported on May 31, that a nest survey was accomplished during May 18 – 21, 2017. Nest surveys are a joint effort by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), [Canada Wildlife Service], Parks Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and as a partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the 50th year that the nest survey has been done. A second nest survey in July will measure the level of success of the current nesting. The final set of surveys will be done in August to determine the number of young chicks that survived to fledge.

Current habitat conditions for nesting whooping cranes

whooping cranes
Whooping crane family – Wood Buffalo NP. Photo by Klaus Nigge

Mr. Keiser told Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) that habitat conditions were excellent for the nesting Whoopers with most wetland basins being full of water.” Good water levels are needed for a good hatch. This was the 50th year of annual surveys of the Whooping Crane population. Keiser explained to FOTWW that, “The large increase in nests from previous years is a result of two things; the arrival at breeding age of the large number of young that were produced during the period 2010-2013 and the excellent habitat conditions that provided an abundance of suitable nesting sites for the cranes.” This year’s survey located 98 nests, an increase of 16 over the previous record of 82 set in 2014.

Data gathering

Protecting and promoting ecological integrity is a priority for Parks Canada. Keizer stated that, “The data gathered each year allows us to track the health and growth of the Whooping Crane population, and allows us to assess the current state of their habitat, which Parks is directly responsible for. The Whooping Crane nesting area is one of the reasons why Wood Buffalo was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.”

Keizer elaborated, “2017 also offers an opportunity to celebrate this amazing recovery successes story of the Whooping Crane and take strides to advance protected areas and biodiversity as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th.

***** 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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