Project Updates – 2010


Index:
– December 2010: Project Update
– September 2010: Wild Whooping Crane Chick Banded
– August 2010: Project Update
– July 2010: Project Update
– July 21, 2010: Young Whooping Cranes Will Learn Migration Route from their Elders
– July 1, 2010: First Whooping Cranes of the “Class of 2010” Arrive at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
– June 2010: Project Update
– June 3, 2010: Wild Whooping Crane Chicks Hatch at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
– April 2010: Project Update
– March 2010: Project Update
– February 2010: Project Update
– January 21, 2010: Ultralight-Led Whooping Cranes Arrive at Final Wintering Destination in Florida
– January 14, 2010: Ultralight-Led Whooping Cranes Arrive at First Wintering Destination in Florida
– January 7, 2010: Ultralight Migration Leads 20 Endangered Whooping Cranes into Georgia


Whooping Crane Update – December 2010

December 2010 Population Status

As of mid December 2010 there are up to 105 wild birds in the Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane population, consisting of 58 males and 47 females. This total includes 9 birds which are long-term missing. The most recent known locations of all birds are shown in the map below. Distribution includes birds in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee.

Fall Migration

All whooping cranes have now left Wisconsin, with the last report that of two birds still present along the lower Wisconsin River as of December 2. The onset of cold weather in mid November prompted some birds to leave the state, and most of the remaining birds departed during a major migration event on November 23. We expect some additional movements over the next few weeks as birds settle into their final wintering locations, primarily on state and federal conservation lands in the southeastern United States. Increasingly, private, state and federal wildlife managed areas are contributing to the welfare of these wintering birds. We are grateful to the many biologists contributing their time and assistance in monitoring their status for the project.

2010 Ultralight Cohort

On December 15, the five young whooping cranes destined for St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida made their final flight to the site where they will spend the winter. On the next flight day, the other five birds will be led to the Halpata Refuge in Florida, the last stopover location before their final flight to the Chassahowitzka NWR pen site. One of the eleven young whooping cranes that departed from Wisconsin on October 10 sustained a debilitating wing injury that prevented it from flying with the rest of the group. The bird was removed from the project and has been sent to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland to become part of a research flock. For daily updates on the progress of the ultralight cohort, see the Operation Migration web site at http://www.operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html or, to view the live video broadcasts via OM’s CraneCam and TrikeCam go to http://www.operationmigration.org/crane-cam.html

2010 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Cohort

On October 25, the eleven whooping cranes in the DAR program were released on Necedah NWR. One bird was killed by an unknown predator on October 30. The other ten DAR birds are correctly associating with older whooping cranes and are currently in three separate groups in Indiana and Tennessee.

Reporting Sightings

Please forward any sightings you receive to us through the whooping crane reporting web site we have established for that purpose: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm

 

Map of whooping crane locations.

 

This update is a product of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. To access our previous project updates and additional information on the project visit our web site at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/.


September 2010: Wild Whooping Crane Chick Banded

In a joint operation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and International Crane Foundation, biologists successfully captured and banded one of the two wild-hatched whooping crane chicks produced in Wisconsin in 2010.

September 2010

The capture itself was carried out by whooping crane biologists Dr. Richard Urbanek of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Marianne Wellington of the International Crane Foundation (ICF). The capture was made at Necedah NWR, and providing critical support for the capture and banding were Eva Szyszkoski, of the International Crane Foundation, and Travis Hunter of Necedah NWR.

October 2010

Dr. Richard Urbanek, Marianne Wellington, and Eva Szyszkoski captured and banded the second chick on October 7, 2010. This chick is referred to as W3-10.

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Whooping Crane Update – August 2010

Population Status

As of late August 2010 there are approximately 96 birds in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) of whooping cranes, consisting of 52 males, 42 females and two wild-hatched chicks (see below). Most birds are located across 7 counties in Wisconsin, with approximately 38 birds at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Single birds spent the summer in Indiana and Michigan, and two males were last reported in North Dakota in late May. Six other birds have not been located since spring. Recent locations of EMP whooping cranes are shown in the map below.

Nesting Status

At least nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes attempted nesting this year, with all nests except two located on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. A total of seven chicks hatched in the nests of five pairs, and two chicks remain alive as of August 29. Just over the past two days it has been confirmed that both chicks have now fledged.

 

Map of whooping crane locations.

 

Captive-reared Cohort

The 2010 ultralight cohort of whooping cranes consists of 13 birds training at two pen sites on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The tentative date for departure from Wisconsin is October 1. The direct autumn release (DAR) cohort consists of 11 young whooping cranes being reared at one pen site on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The target date for release of DAR birds with older cranes is late October.

 


Whooping Crane Update – July 2010

Population Status

As of late July 2010 there are approximately 97 birds in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) of whooping cranes, consisting of 52 males, 43 females and two wild-hatched chicks (see below). Most birds are located across 7 counties in Wisconsin, with approximately 38 birds at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. A single female is again spending the summer in Indiana, two males reported in North Dakota in late May have not been relocated, and one DAR male was last reported in April from Michigan. Five others have not been located since spring. Recent locations of EMP whooping cranes are shown in the map below.

Overhead view of whooping crane pair and chick. Photo by Operation Migration

Aerial view of one of the whooping crane pairs and their chick.

Photo by Operation Migration

Nesting Status

At least nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes attempted nesting this year, with all nests except two located on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. A total of seven chicks hatched in the nests of five pairs, and two chicks remain alive as of late July. The ages of these two chicks are now approximately 53 and 60 days.

Captive-reared Cohort

Preparations for the 2010 whooping crane releases of chicks hatched from captive cranes consist of two projects: ultralight training and direct autumn release (DAR). This year the ultralight cohort of whooping cranes consists of 13 birds training at two pen sites on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The DAR cohort consists of 11 young whooping cranes being reared at one pen site on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

 

 

Map of whooping crane locations in Wisconsin during July 2010.

July 21, 2010: Young Whooping Cranes Will Learn Migration Route from their Elders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Joan Garland, 608-381-1262

July 21, 2010

Eleven whooping crane chicks arrived yesterday at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin. The cranes are part of the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America, part of its historic range. There are now 97 whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America thanks to WCEP’s efforts.

The chicks arrived from the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wis., where the birds were hatched and raised by costumed biologists. The chicks will spend the remainder of the summer at Necedah NWR, under the watchful eye and supervision of costumed staff from ICF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This fall, the juvenile birds will be released in the company of older cranes after fledging, or developing their flight feathers. The young cranes learn the migration route by following these older birds. This is the sixth year WCEP has used this Direct Autumn Release method.

“We are pleased with the successful transfer of the DAR birds from the Felburn/Leidigh Chick Rearing Facility here at ICF to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge,” said Dr. Barry Hartup, Director of Veterinary Services at ICF. “The DAR program provides WCEP with cost-effective and flexible options for supplementing the eastern migratory whooping crane population.”

In addition to the 11 DAR birds, 11 whooping crane chicks are currently being conditioned to follow ultralight aircraft by a field team from Operation Migration and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. This fall, Operation Migration will guide the young cranes on their first southward migration from Necedah NWR to Florida, the cranes’ winter home.

The DAR and ultralight-led chicks are this year joining two wild-hatched chicks in the 2010 cohort. WCEP has high hopes that these wild crane chicks will survive to fledge and will accompany their parents on the fall migration to the wintering grounds.

In 2001, WCEP project partner Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight aircraft surrogates, south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. Each subsequent year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional groups of juvenile cranes to Florida. Having been shown the way once, the young birds initiate their return migration in the spring, and in subsequent years, continue to migrate on their own. In 2008, St. Marks NWR along Florida’s Gulf Coast was added as an additional wintering site for the juvenile cranes.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and Direct Autumn Release reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

In the spring and fall, project staff from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.

Most of the whooping cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 550 birds in existence, approximately 400 of them in the wild. Aside from the 97 WCEP birds, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migrating flock of approximately 30 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region.

Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane FoundationOperation Migration, Inc.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.
To report whooping crane sightings, visit the WCEP whooping crane observation webpage at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane/sightings/sightingform.cfm.

-WCEP-

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July 1, 2010: First Whooping Cranes of the “Class of 2010” Arrive at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2010

Contacts:

Joan Garland, 608-381-1262
Dan Peterson, 608-565-4412

Seven whooping crane chicks arrived yesterday at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin to begin preparation for their fall migration behind ultralight aircraft.

The seven chicks are members of the “Class of 2010”, which will be the tenth group of endangered whooping cranes to take part in a project conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), a coalition of public and private organizations that is reintroducing a migratory flock of whooping cranes in eastern North America, part of their historic range.  Thanks to WCEP’s efforts, there are now 100 wild cranes in this population.

The chicks comprise the first cohort of young whooping cranes to arrive by private aircraft from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., where the birds hatched and learned to follow costumed biologists and ultralight aircraft on the ground.  Following medical examinations that showed that all of the birds were healthy, they were shipped to Necedah NWR in large crates, in aircraft provided by Windway Capital Corp.  A quick check by veterinarians upon arrival showed that the birds were ready for their new home on Necedah NWR.  One more cohort of chicks will be shipped from Patuxent to Necedah NWR next week.

A field team from Operation Migration, Inc. and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will spend the summer strengthening the social cohesion of the flock and teaching them to fly behind the ultralights.  This fall, Operation Migration will use ultralights to guide the young cranes on their first southward migration to Florida, the cranes’ winter home.

“The dedicated crane staff at Patuxent has produced, raised and trained a very healthy group of chicks to follow the ultralights this year, with the expert help of volunteers from Disney Wild Kingdom and our usual local volunteers,” said John French, research manager for the whooping crane program at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  “As every year, we could not accomplish this without the partnership of Operation Migration and FWS Patuxent Research Refuge, on whose land we work.”

In 2001, WCEP project partner Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight aircraft surrogates, south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida.  Each subsequent year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional groups of juvenile cranes to Florida. Having been shown the way once, the young birds initiate their return migration in the spring, and in subsequent years, continue to migrate on their own.  In 2008, St. Marks NWR along Florida’s Gulf Coast was added as an additional wintering site for the juvenile cranes.

In addition to the ultralight-led birds, biologists from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rear whooping crane chicks at Necedah NWR and release them in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learn the migration route.  This is the sixth year WCEP has used this Direct Autumn Release method.

The ultralight-led and DAR chicks are this year joining five wild-hatched chicks in the 2010 cohort.  The wild-hatched chicks face a precarious existence in the first weeks of their lives, and natural loss of some chicks due to predation is not unexpected.  WCEP has high hopes for many of these wild crane chicks surviving to fledge and accompanying their parents on the fall migration to the wintering grounds.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and Direct Autumn Release reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis.  Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

In the spring and fall, project staff from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.

Most of the whooping cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 550 birds in existence, approximately 400 of them in the wild. Aside from the 100 WCEP birds, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast.  A non-migrating flock of approximately 30 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region.

Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane FoundationOperation Migration, Inc.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

-WCEP-

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Whooping Crane Update – June 2010

June 2010 Population Status

As of mid-June 2010 there are approximately 100 birds in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) of whooping cranes, consisting of 52 males, 43 females, and five chicks (see below). Most birds were located in Wisconsin, with single birds located in Indiana and Michigan, and two birds last reported from North Dakota on May 25. Two other birds have not been located since spring migration, and three are long-term missing. The most recent known locations of all EMP whooping cranes are shown in the map below.

 

Map showing the locations of whooping cranes fromt the eastern migratory population.

Nesting Status

At least nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes attempted nesting this year, with all nests except two located on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. As of mid-June all nests have either hatched or failed due to abandonment. This year, we had a mix of early and late nesting and renesting, and also placed one captive-reared egg into the nest of a pair with two infertile eggs. A total of 7 chicks hatched in the nests of 5 pairs, and 5 chicks are alive as of mid-June, one with each pair.

 


June 3, 2010: Wild Whooping Crane Chicks Hatch at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 3, 2010

Contacts:

Joan Garland, 608-381-1262
Dan Peterson, 608-565-4412

Aerial view of adult whooping crane and two chicks. Photo by Operation MigrationAerial view of adult whooping crane on its nest with two chicks.
Photo by Operation Migration

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) is celebrating another success in its efforts to reintroduce a wild migratory whooping crane population in eastern North America. Two whooping crane chicks hatched Monday at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Wisconsin. This is only the third time in over a century that naturally produced whooping cranes have hatched in the wild in the Midwest.

The chicks, #W1-10 and #W2-10 (W = wild hatched), are the offspring of whooping crane pair #9-03 and #3-04 from the ultralight-led crane Classes of 2003 and 2004.

“We are cautiously optimistic that it will be a good year,” said Necedah NWR manager Doug Staller. “Out of the seven pairs of whooping cranes that nested this season, we are excited to see two Direct Autumn Release birds nesting this year.”

The chicks are the result of renesting. Earlier this spring, nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes built nests and laid eggs, but all nine pairs abandoned those first nests. Later this spring, four pairs renested, including #9-03 and #3-04, and three additional pairs initiated nests. Five pairs currently remain on their nests.

The nest abandonments earlier this spring are similar to what has been observed in previous years. WCEP is investigating the cause of the abandonments through analysis of data collected throughout the nesting period on crane behavior and black fly abundance and distribution.

Whooping cranes are long-lived birds that may start nesting attempts at three to five years of age, and can continue hatching eggs and rearing chicks past the age of 30. In captivity, the oldest breeding whooping crane is currently 41 years old. The oldest whooping crane known to be producing young in the wild is 32 years old.

In 2001, WCEP project partner Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight aircraft surrogates, south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. Each subsequent year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional groups of juvenile cranes to Florida. Having been shown the way once, the young birds initiate their return migration in the spring, and in subsequent years, continue to migrate on their own. In 2008, St. Marks NWR along Florida’s Gulf Coast was added as an additional wintering site for the juvenile cranes.

In addition to the ultralight-led birds, biologists from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rear whooping crane chicks at Necedah NWR and release them in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learn the migration route. This is the sixth year WCEP has used this Direct Autumn Release method.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and Direct Autumn Release reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

In the spring and fall, project staff from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.

Most of the whooping cranes released in previous years spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 550 birds in existence, approximately 400 of them in the wild. Aside from the 102 WCEP birds, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters at Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast. A non-migrating flock of approximately 30 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region.

Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane FoundationOperation Migration, Inc.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

-WCEP-

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Whooping Crane Update – April 2010

April 2010 Population Status

As of late April 2010 there are approximately 103 birds in the Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane population, consisting of 58 males and 45 females. The most recent known locations of all birds are shown in the map below. Most birds for which locations are known are in Wisconsin, with an additional 2 birds in Iowa, and single birds located in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Most of the 2009 cohort have successfully migrated back to Wisconsin, with the exception of the one bird still in Indiana, and several DAR birds whose current locations are unknown.

 

Map of whooping crane locations in Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Illinois, and northern Indiana.

Nesting Status

At least nine breeding pairs of whooping cranes have already attempted nesting, with most of the nests located on Necedah NWR and one nest on a private cranberry operation. As of April 14, all nests had already failed due to abandonment. This nest abandonment pattern is similar to what has been observed in the past few years. We still have not identified the causes of this abandonment pattern, but ongoing intensive studies will hopefully provide some helpful information. This year, we managed to conduct video surveillance of all but one whooping crane nest from the first nest attempts, and have also been conducting dummy nest experiments and collecting biting insect data at all failed whooping crane nests. We remain optimistic that successful nesting could occur yet in 2010, as there are a number of whooping crane pairs that have not yet attempted to nest, and at least some of the failed pairs are expected to renest.

Aransas-Wood Buffalo Wild Flock

The majority of whooping cranes in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock have already departed for their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories and Alberta, Canada. Current flock size is estimated at 242 adults and 21 first year birds, for a total of 263.

 


Whooping Crane Update – March 2010

Mid-March 2010 Project Update

Spring Migration!

Many whooping cranes have begun spring migration, and we have already received unconfirmed reports of birds in Wisconsin. In past years, we have had a large proportion of the population back in Wisconsin by the end of March. All birds are expected to begin migration over the next few weeks, and we ask that you quickly pass on any sightings you receive.

March 2010 Population Status

As of mid-March 2010 there are up to 105 birds in the Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane population, consisting of 59 males and 46 females. This total includes five birds not recorded since late 2009, and seven birds that have not been seen since mid-summer. The most recent known locations of all birds are shown in the map below.

 

Map of eastern U.S. showing location of whooping cranes.

2009 Ultralight Cohort

The 20 young cranes led to Florida behind ultralight aircraft have been doing well in their winter quarters, with 10 birds at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and 10 at Chassahowitzka NWR. One of the Chassahowitzka birds recently disappeared, though its fate remains unknown at this time. The birds will continue to be monitored until they depart for Wisconsin, and the Tracking Team will then closely monitor the young cranes on their first northward migration. Based upon our experience from previous years, we expect departure to occur some time in late March or early April.

2009 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Cohort

Of the nine birds released using the DAR technique this year, all continue to associate with older whooping cranes. The latest information indicates that most have departed their wintering areas in Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida, and are currently in migration.

 

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Whooping Crane Update – February 2010

February 2010 Population Status

As of early February 2010 there are approximately 85 wild birds in the Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane population, consisting of 48 males and 37 females. The most recent known locations of all birds are shown in the map below, with the exception of 7 at undetermined locations, and 7 long-term missing. Distribution included 26 birds in Florida, 3 in Georgia, 4 in South Carolina, 6 in Alabama, 1 in Mississippi, 15 in Tennessee, 8 in Kentucky, and 8 in Indiana.

2009 Ultralight Cohort

Photo of an open wired pen with two costumed handlers and six whooping cranes.

 

 

First-year whooping cranes spend the winter in and near open pens like this one at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

Subsequent to our previous update, the 20 cranes led to Florida behind ultralight aircraft completed their first migration. The 10 birds destined for the wintering site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) arrived on January 13, and the 10 remaining young whooping cranes arrived at their wintering destination at Chassahowitzka NWR on January 20. Soon after their arrival, each of the two groups of cranes received health checks and permanent bands and transmitters. Each group of young cranes were retained in a top-netted enclosure at each site for a brief period of acclimation before release, and are now free to explore the habitats in the vicinity of their open pens. All birds will be monitored throughout the winter, until they depart on their own for the migration back to Wisconsin.

2009 Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Cohort

Of the nine birds released using the DAR technique this year, all continue to associate with older whooping cranes. The latest information indicates seven birds located in Kentucky, one bird in Indiana, and one in Florida.

 

Map showing location of whooping cranes February 2010.

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January 21, 2010: Ultralight-Led Whooping Cranes Arrive at Final Wintering Destination in Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

January 21, 2010

Contact:

Joan Garland, 608-381-1262

Dan Peterson, 608-565-4412

 

Ultralight in flight with whooping cranes following on the right wing. Photo by Operation MigrationFor more information on the project and its partners, visit the WCEP website at: http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.

Ten endangered whooping cranes arrived yesterday on their wintering grounds at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Citrus County, Florida.  The other 10 “Class of 2009” ultralight-led cranes reached their final wintering destination at St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida on January 13.

These 20 cranes are the ninth group to be guided by ultralight aircraft more than 1,200 miles from Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin to the Gulf coast of Florida.  TheWhooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private organizations, is conducting the reintroduction project in an effort to restore this endangered species to part of its historic range in eastern North America.  At 89 days, this was the second longest ultralight-led migration since WCEP began reintroducing whooping cranes.  Unsuitable flying weather caused delays along the migration route.

“This Class of 2009 brings another exciting year for this great partnership, and it gets us one step closer to seeing the recovery of this magnificent species,” said Michael Lusk, Refuge Manager at Chassahowitzka NWR. “The staff at Chassahowitzka NWR worked hard to make sure that everything was ready for the arrival of the birds. We are very excited to be a part of this project and to be able to share our excitement with our partners at the St. Marks NWR.”

This is the second year the cranes have wintered at two separate locations.  The decision to split the flock came after the loss in February 2007 of 17 of the 18 Class of 2006 whooping cranes in a severe storm at Chassahowitzka NWR.  WCEP hopes the two wintering locations will help reduce the risk of another catastrophic loss.

In addition to the 20 birds led south by project partner Operation Migration’s ultralights, nine cranes made their first southward migration this fall as part of WCEP’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program.  Biologists from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reared the cranes at Necedah NWR and released them in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learned the migration route.  One of the DAR birds arrived in Lake County, Florida earlier this month. Seven of the cranes migrated to Tennessee and one is located in Indiana.  All of the DAR birds are in the company of older whooping cranes.  This is the fifth year WCEP has used this DAR method.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and DAR reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis.  Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

In 2001, Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight aircraft surrogates, south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR.  Each subsequent year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional groups of juvenile cranes to Chassahowitzka NWR. Once led south, the cranes are able to migrate on their own, without assistance, in following years.

In the spring and fall, project staff from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.

Most graduated classes of whooping cranes spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near the Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 550 birds in existence, approximately 375 of them in the wild. Aside from the 85 birds reintroduced by WCEP, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters at the Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast.  A non-migrating flock of approximately 30 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region.

Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need.  Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; try to remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane FoundationOperation Migration, Inc.Wisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

-WCEP-

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January 14, 2010: Ultralight-Led Whooping Cranes Arrive at First Wintering Destination in Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 2010

Contact:

Joan Garland, 608-381-1262
Dan Peterson, 608-565-4412

Four whooping cranes flying behind an altralight against a blue sky. Photo by Operation MigrationTen endangered whooping cranes and their surrogate parents, four ultralight aircraft, arrived yesterday at their wintering grounds in Florida after a trek of more than 1,000 miles through seven states.

Ten of the 20 “Class of 2009” ultralight-led cranes arrived yesterday at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Wakulla County, Florida.  The other 10 ultralight-led whooping cranes will continue to their final destination at the Chassahowitzka NWR in Citrus County, Florida.

These 20 cranes are the ninth group to be guided by ultralights to Florida from Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin.  The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private organizations, is conducting the reintroduction project in an effort to restore this endangered species to part of its historic range in eastern North America.

“Last year I watched the seven cranes arrive from the blind at the pen site. This year I was at the flyover event to watch 10 cranes being led by the ultralights,” said Terry Peacock, Refuge Manager at St. Marks NWR.  “Both events were equally moving. I appreciate WCEP allowing St. Marks to be a part of this recovery effort.”

This is the second year the cranes have wintered at two separate locations.  The decision to split the flock came after the loss in February 2007 of 17 of the 18 Class of 2006 whooping cranes in a severe storm at Chassahowitzka NWR.  WCEP hopes the two wintering locations will help reduce the risk of another catastrophic loss.

In addition to the 20 birds led south by project partner Operation Migration’s ultralights, nine cranes made their first southward migration this fall as part of WCEP’s Direct Autumn Release (DAR) program.  Biologists from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reared the cranes at Necedah NWR and released them in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learned the migration route.  One of the DAR birds arrived in Lake County, Florida earlier this month. Seven of the cranes are currently in Tennessee and one is located in Indiana.  All of the DAR birds are in the company of older whooping cranes.  This is the fifth year WCEP has used this DAR method.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and DAR reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis.  Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

In 2001, Operation Migration’s pilots led the first whooping crane chicks, conditioned to follow their ultralight aircraft surrogates, south from Necedah NWR to Chassahowitzka NWR.  Each subsequent year, WCEP biologists and pilots have conditioned and guided additional groups of juvenile cranes to Chassahowitzka NWR. Once led south, the cranes are able to migrate on their own, without assistance, in following years.

In the spring and fall, project staff from the International Crane Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted journeys and the habitat choices they make both along the way and on their summering and wintering grounds.

Most graduated classes of whooping cranes spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on or near the Necedah NWR, as well as other public and private lands.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 550 birds in existence, approximately 375 of them in the wild. Aside from the 85 birds reintroduced by WCEP, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters at the Aransas NWR on the Texas Gulf Coast.  A non-migrating flock of approximately 30 birds lives year-round in the central Florida Kissimmee region.

Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and aquatic plants. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need.  Do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards; try to remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 100 yards.  Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you.  Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsors.

-WCEP-

 

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January 7, 2010: Ultralight Migration Leads 20 Endangered Whooping Cranes into Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2010

Contact:

Twenty juvenile whooping cranes and several chilly pilots in ultralights reached Decatur County, Georgia, today on their ultralight-guided migration from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin to Chassahowitzka and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuges along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Successfully restoring a population of a migratory species is a huge challenge and this pioneering effort is demonstrating the need for long-term commitment,” said Mike Harris, Nongame Conservation Section chief with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

These majestic birds, the tallest in North America, left Necedah refuge on October 23, following Operation Migration’s four ultralight aircraft. Georgia is one of the seven states on the route to Florida.

“I hope all Americans appreciate this monumental and inspiring project to save this species for future generations,” said Cindy Dohner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Regional Director.

A public flyover is planned at San Marcos de Apalache State Park in St. Marks, Florida. For more information, call St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge at (850) 925-6121,

Another event is planned at Dunnellon Airport, in between Crystal River and Ocala, Florida. For more information on that event, call (352) 563-2088 x213

There are now 85 migratory whooping cranes in the wild in eastern North America — including the first whooping crane chick to hatch in the wild in Wisconsin in more than a century. One crane from an earlier cohort was recently shot and killed in Indiana.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups conducting this project, is now in its ninth year, in an effort to reintroduce this endangered species in eastern North America.

Each fall, pilots from Operation Migration (OM), a WCEP founding partner, leads a new generation of whooping cranes behind their ultralight aircraft to wintering grounds in Florida. Unaided, the cranes will make the return migration to the Upper Midwest in the spring.

“This is the second time we have led birds through this part of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama, Georgia, and I am still amazed at the support this project generates,” said Joe Duff, C.E.O, Operation Migration, Inc. “Without help from land-owners who allow us to use their property or the airport managers who provide hangar space for our flimsy aircraft this project could not be done. We are grateful to all the people who provide pumpkins for the birds, showers for the crew members or dinners. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.”

The ultra-led flock from Necedah NWR passed through Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Alabama, and passes through Georgia to reach their final destinations in Florida. Because the ability to fly with the birds is entirely weather dependent, the duration of the migration is unknown. To help speed the migration and improve safety for the birds and the pilots, a new route was developed last year that takes the team around the Appalachian Mountains, rather than over them.

In addition to the 20 ultralight-led birds, biologists from the International Crane Foundation (ICF) and the Service reared nine whooping cranes at Necedah NWR. The birds were released in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds will learn the migration route. This is the fifth year WCEP has used this Direct Autumn Release method.

Whooping cranes that take part in the ultralight and Direct Autumn Release reintroductions are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Chicks are raised under a strict isolation protocol and to ensure the birds remain wild, handlers adhere to a no-talking rule and wear costumes designed to mask the human form.

Most of the reintroduced whooping cranes spend the summer in central Wisconsin, where they use areas on the Necedah NWR, as well as various state and private lands. Reintroduced whooping cranes have also spent time in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and other upper Midwest states.

In the spring and fall, project staff from ICF and the Service track and monitor the released cranes in an effort to learn as much as possible about their unassisted migrations and the habitat choices they make along the way. The birds are monitored during the winter in Florida by WCEP project staff. ICF and Service biologists continue to monitor the birds while they are in their summer locations.

The Whooping Crane Recovery Team has established a target number for this reintroduction. Once there are at least 125 individuals, including 25 breeding pairs, migrating in this eastern corridor the population could be considered self sustaining.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, there are only about 500 birds in existence, 350 of them in the wild. Aside from the 85 Wisconsin-Florida birds, the only other migrating population of whooping cranes nests at the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and winters at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast. Whooping cranes, named for their loud and penetrating unison calls, live and breed in wetland areas, where they feed on crabs, clams, frogs and seeds. They are distinctive animals, standing five feet tall, with white bodies, black wing tips and red crowns on their heads.

A non-migrating flock of about 30 birds lives year-round in central Florida. The remaining 150 whooping cranes are in captivity in zoos and breeding facilities around North America.

WCEP asks anyone who encounters a whooping crane in the wild to please give them the respect and distance they need. Do not approach birds on foot within 600 feet; try to remain in your vehicle; do not approach in a vehicle within 600 feet or, if on a public road, within 300 feet. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view whooping cranes.

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership founding members are the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration Inc., Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and National Wildlife Health Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team.

Many other flyway states, provinces, private individuals and conservation groups have joined forces with and support WCEP by donating resources, funding and personnel. More than 60 percent of the project’s estimated $1.6 million annual budget comes from private sources in the form of grants, public donations and corporate sponsorship.

A Wisconsin Whooping Crane Management Plan that describes project goals and management and monitoring strategies shared and implemented by the partners is online at: http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/er/er0650.pdf.

For more information on the project, its partners and how you can help, visit the WCEP website at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/.


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