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2016 WCEP News and Feature Stories

WCEP News and Features

 

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December 1, 2016, Project Update

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month most Whooping Cranes have begun migration or reached their wintering areas. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

 

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 105 (48 F, 55 M, 2 U). As of 1 December, at least 21 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in WI, 1 in Iowa, 30 - 31 in Indiana, 6 - 8 in Illinois, 4 in Kentucky, 1 – 3 in Tennessee, 10 - 11 in Alabama, 2 in Florida, and 1 in Louisiana. The remaining birds’ locations have not been reported during November. See map below.

 

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Report on Whooping Crane Recovery Activities

2015 Breeding Season to 2016 Spring Migration

By Wade Harrell, Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator, US Fish & Wildlife Service and Mark Bidwell, Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator, Canadian Wildlife Service October 2016

 

Executive Summary
Whooping cranes are one of the most rare, highly endangered and intensively monitored bird species in North America. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWBP), which breeds in northern Canada and winters in Texas, is the only remaining wild, self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes. In summer 2015, surveys of the AWB detected 68 nests (May) and 23 chicks (August) resulting in an average number of chicks fledged per nest (0.34) that was lower than the 20-year long term average of 0.49 but within the long term natural range of variation. In winter 2015 (Dec) the peak population size of the AWB on the primary wintering grounds was estimated as 329 birds (95% confidence interval [CI] 293–371; CV = 0.073) and additional birds were located outside the survey area. This was a record high estimate for this whooping crane population.

 

Whooping cranes faced challenging conditions due to dry conditions and forest fires during the 2015 breeding season. Several projects were undertaken by a variety of agencies to monitor and investigate the ecology of the AWBP population, including the continuation of an initiative to mark individual birds with satellite transmitters to track their movements during the annual cycle. By the end of 2015, 11 marked birds were continuing to provide data.

 

In addition to the AWB, other populations of whooping cranes exist in Wisconsin, Florida, and Louisiana due to the efforts of many government agencies and non-governmental organizations, including the captive breeding centers where whooping cranes are reared for reintroduction. By the end of 2015 there were approximately 145 birds in reintroduced populations and 161 birds held in captivity. Nearly all of the growth in the global population of whooping cranes occurred in the wild, Aransas Wood-Buffalo population, as reintroduced populations realized minimal wild recruitment and population size was maintained via captive chick introduction.

 

Finally, in 2015, USFWS, CWS, our partners on the International Recovery Team and other organizations initiated a process to conduct a recovery planning process including an updated Population Viability Analysis (PVA) and, for the first time, a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA). A PVA workshop was held at the Calgary Zoo in December of 2015 (see report attached). The PVA/PHVA process, led by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), provides our agencies and partners with an opportunity to develop a unified vision for whooping crane management, in order to hasten recovery of the species in cost-effective and biologically appropriate ways.

 

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Nov. 1, 2o16, Project Update

In the last month Whooping Cranes have begun migration!

 

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 105 (48 F, 55 M, 2 U). As of 1 November, at least 84 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in WI, 1 is currently in Michigan, 1 in Iowa, 5 in Indiana, and 10 are in Illinois. The remaining 4 birds have not been confirmed in WI yet this year.

 

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October 4, 2016, Project Update

Here is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month we have released most of this year’s cohort of parent-reared juveniles into Wisconsin. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

 

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 109 (50 F, 57 M, 2 U). This total includes wild-hatched and released chicks from 2016. As of 4 October, at least 100 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in WI, 1 is currently in Michigan, and 4 are in Illinois. The remaining 4 birds have not been confirmed in WI yet this year. See map below.

 

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September 1, 2016 Project Update

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 100 (48 F, 50 M, 2 U). This total does not include wild-hatched chicks from 2016. As of 1 August, at least 90 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in WI, 1 is currently in Michigan, and 4 are in Illinois. The remaining 5 birds have not been confirmed in WI yet this spring.

 

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August 1, 2016 Project Update

The current maximum population size is 100 (48 F, 50 M, 2 U). This total does not include wild-hatched chicks from 2016. As of 1 August, at least 90 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in Wisconsin, one is currently in Michigan, and four are in Illinois. The remaining 5 birds have not been confirmed in Wisconsin yet this spring.

 

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News Release: Changes are hatching in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership

July 6, 2016

 

BARABOO, Wis. – Whooping Crane chicks have already started hatching at captive rearing centers across North America. This year, the captive-raised chicks to be released in Wisconsin will be doing things a little differently from their predecessors. The first thing Whooping Crane chicks will see when they hatch in captivity will be an adult Whooping Crane -- not a human caretaker in a white crane costume.  It’s the first step on a new path to bring a self-sustaining migratory population of Whooping Cranes to the eastern United States.

 

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June 2016 Project Update

Nesting season is complete for 2016. So far 23 chicks have hatched, and as of 1 July, 6 chicks are still alive. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

 

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2015 WCEP Annual Report

 

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership's 2015 Annual Report is available!

 


 

May 2016 Project Update

Nesting season is well underway for 2016 with first nests already hatched and re-nests due to hatch very soon. The 2015 cohort has begun their wandering phase and has been moving around quite a bit this spring. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

 

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March 2016 Project Update

The 2015 cohort of Ultralight birds has been banded and released at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Spring migration is well underway, with more sightings of birds returning to Wisconsin every day. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes on their wintering grounds and throughout their migration. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

 

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January 2016 Project Update

The adult cranes have all arrived on their wintering grounds (see January Update Map), the Ultralight migration is still underway (for updates see Operation Migration’s Field Journal), and the Direct Autumn Release birds have all migrated from Horicon NWR (see DAR 2015 Movement Map). The current maximum population size is 99 birds (52 males, 45 females, 2 unknown). Many thanks to our crane trackers at ICF, as well as Heather Ray, Wisconsin DNR pilots Bev Paulan and Mike Callahan, and the volunteers and public all working to help us keep an eye on our birds wherever they may roam.

 

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WCEP Statement about USFWS Vision Document

January 22, 2016

 

In an effort to improve the success of the Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership will modify all methods of rearing and releasing whooping cranes. The announcement came as the result of meetings among the partners to focus on the long-term viability of the Eastern Migratory Population. Modifications are being made to put emphasis on more natural methods of rearing and releasing young whooping cranes, which means discontinuing ultralight-led migrations and perhaps other techniques that rely heavily on human intervention as recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

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