Fall 2020 Whooping Crane migration in full swing

Migration Underway

Migrating Whooping cranes in Saskatchewan. © 2019 Photo by Rodney Brown

Migration of the only natural wild population of whooping cranes is underway. The Whooping Crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas NWR is about 2,500 miles in length and can take as many as 50 days to complete. The flock is expected to migrate through Nebraska, North Dakota and other states along the Central Flyway over the next several weeks. The Wildlife Fish and Game and Parks agencies along the flyway encourage the public to report any whooping crane sightings.

If you should observe a whooping crane as they migrate along the Central Flyway, please report them to the proper agencies. We have compiled a list of agencies and contact information below. If you need help with identification, please click on our Whooper Identification page.

Canadian reports

Any sightings of Whooping Cranes in Canada:
Whooping Crane Hotline is 306-975-5595. That will get you to Wildlife Biologist John Conkin. Leave a detailed message for a callback.

Montana reports

Allison Begley
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena, MT  59620
(406) 444-3370

Jim Hansen
MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks
2300 Lake Elmo Drive
Billings, MT  59105
(406) 247-2957

North Dakota

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701-848-2466)
Audubon, (701-442-5474)
National wildlife refuges
North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, (701-328-6300) or to local game wardens

South Dakota

Eileen Dowd Stukel; eileen.dowdstukel@state.sd.us; (605-773-4229)
Casey Heimerl; (605-773-4345)
Natalie Gates; Natalie_Gates@fws.gov; (605-224-8793), ext. 227
Jay Peterson; Jay_Peterson@fws.gov; (605-885-6320), ext. 213


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


Jason Wagner

Ed Miller

Whooping Crane sightings at or near Quivira NWR should be reported to:
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
They can also be reported to this email:  quivira@fws.gov


Sightings can be logged online here

Matt Fullerton
Endangered Species Biologist

Mark Howery
Wildlife Diversity Biologist


Texas Whooper Watch also has a project in I-Naturalist that is now fully functional. You can find it here. You can report sightings directly in I-Naturalist via your Smart Phone. This allows you to easily provide photo verification and your location.

If you are not a smart phone app user, you can still report via email: whoopingcranes@tpwd.state.tx.us or phone: (512-389-999). Please note that our primary interest is in reports from outside the core wintering range.

Do not disturb and why reporting is important

Should you see a whooping crane during migration, please do not get close or disturb it. Keep your distance and make a note of date, time, location, and what the whooping crane is doing. If the whooping crane is wearing bands or a transmitter, please note the color(s) and what leg(s) the bands are on.

Migrating Whooping cranes in Saskatchewan. ©2019  Photo by Val Mann

You may wonder why the wild life agencies are asking for these sightings to be reported. The reports are very helpful in gathering data and information on when and where the whooping cranes stopover, what type of habitat they are choosing, and how many there are.

With just over 500 wild whooping cranes migrating along the Central Flyway, odds are low of seeing a wild whooping crane. However, FOTWW hopes that someone reading this article will be one of the lucky few. If you are, please report your sighting so that these agencies and other conservation groups, including FOTWW can continue helping these magnificent cranes.


***** 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.

fall migration

8 thoughts on “Fall 2020 Whooping Crane migration in full swing”

  1. Today, I was lucky enough to see a group of about 20 Whooping Cranes circling slowly on an air current above Stacy Park in Austin Texas.

  2. I am in SW Indiana . Went outside this morning, very low visual, due to fog, but could hear the distinct call of whooping cranes. I thought we were not on the migration route?

    • The whooping cranes that pass through or winter in Indiana belong to the reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population, (EMP) What a thrill it must have been for you to hear them. Perhaps next time, you will see them.

  3. Early this morning we were at Quivera. There was a huge flock of very large cranes that were white with black tips on the wings along the waters edge. They would fly up, then come back to the flock. They looked and sounded like whopping cranes, but there were at least 50 – 100 of these cranes. There were a hundreds, if not a couple thousand sand hill cranes there today as well. They were bluish grey in color, Were we mistaken?

  4. We were walking the dogs this morning and saw two small groups of birds flying in V pattern that looked and sounded like Whooping Cranes. Long legs trailing out back, long necks leading the way.
    Is this possible?

  5. I was lucky enough to see a Whooping Crane in Southern Indiana a couple weeks ago. One single Whooper within a group of probably hundreds of Sandhills. Does anyone know how many of the EMPs remain? Is it not odd for there to be just one and not at least a few sticking together?

    • Hi Lindsey, The report from December 10th has the current “estimated” population size at 80 (39 F, 38 M, 3 U). It is not odd to see one lone Whooping Crane. Hope this helps.

      Happy New Year!

  6. A couple weeks ago my daughter and I were riding our bikes in Barrington Hills, IL and we saw two huge birds walking that looked like giant herons. My daughter walked over to take a closer look and the birds flew over a fence and landed on a meadow. My daughter asked me what they were, but I didn’t know, until today when I started my computer and saw the same tall birds on the screen! I learned about whooping cranes in the 70’s growing up, but never saw one. What a great experience to share with my daughter and thanks to everyone that is working to restore our natural environment.


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