Whooping Cranes Begin their Migration to Nesting Grounds on Wood Buffalo, Canada

by Chester McConnell
Friends of the Wild Whoopers
April 3, 2015

Sixteen Whooping Cranes      photo byMike-Umscheid
Sixteen Whooping Cranes photo byMike-Umscheid

Some of the birds in the world’s only remaining wild population of Whooping Cranes have begun their annual migration back to their nesting grounds in northern Canada. The others will follow soon. They are repeating an event that has been going on for thousands of years. Following improved weather conditions during the winter season, including increased rainfall on their Aransas National Wildlife Refuge winter grounds, the Whoopers appear to be in healthy condition. So, as the remaining Whoopers join the early birds and depart on their 2,500 mile migration to Canada’s Wood Buffalo nesting grounds there is hope for another successful reproduction season.

Traveling in small groups the Whoopers are expected to begin arriving at the Wood Buffalo National Park nesting grounds during late April and May according to Friends of the Wild Whoopers.

After reaching the nesting grounds, they must soon concentrate on their mission to raise more chicks. They must make their nests, lay two eggs, incubate the eggs until they hatch and then help feed the chicks until they fledge. All of this activity requires about five months. Winter comes early in the northern Canada nesting grounds and the Whooping Cranes want to begin their migration back to the Texas coast in late September.

Dr. Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator advised that: “Some of the Whoopers have departed from their wintering grounds and have been observed along the migration corridor.  Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas reported a total of 20 stopping over last week.” Eight more Whoopers were observed along the Platte River in Nebraska and a caller from Saskatchewan reported two more.

Twenty eight Whoopers are currently being tracked via GPS telemetry so wildlife biologists can monitor their movements and learn more about the areas they visit during migration. According to Harrell, less than one-half of our marked birds that we are tracking have started migration.

Friends of the Wild Whoopers ask the public to report any Whooping Cranes they see along rivers, wetlands and fields. Report your observations to the wildlife agency in your state.

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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. *****
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