Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
Today's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North


Tom Stehn

Photo Heather Ray

March 24, 2005

Dear Journey North,

I don't think the whooping crane migration has yet begun. On a census flight March 23, I found 210 whooping cranes. On my previous flight on March 9, I had counted 211. This provides a pretty good indication that basically none of the whooping cranes have left the wintering grounds. There have also been no confirmed reports phoned in by the public of any
whooping cranes in migration, another good indicator that the migration hasn't started.

Where is the 217th Crane?
I expect the migration to get started the last week in March. However,
there is one whooping crane that I don't know the status of; this bird could
already be heading north. It's a juvenile whooping crane that wintered apart from
all the rest of the whooping cranes in Matagorda County, Texas. This is about 75
miles up the coast from Aransas and the rest of the flock. This bird had
separated from its parents in the fall migration and followed sandhill
cranes to Texas. In whooping cranes, there is no instinct to come to
Aransas. Each juvenile whooping crane is led by its parents to Aransas and
after its first trip south in the fall will continue to make the same
migration annually. This juvenile spent the winter with sandhills. But
even after all the sandhills left Texas heading north, the juvenile
whooping crane was still here--looking a little bewildered, but not
going anywhere. This bird was last seen around March 19. It hasn't been
seen by anyone since. Perhaps it is on its way north.

A Challenge Question for You

Two weeks ago, I counted 20 sandhill cranes along withthe 211 whooping
cranes on my census flight at Aransas. Yesterday, all the sandhills were
gone, but all the whooping cranes were still present. Sandhill cranes
definitely begin the migration at least 3 weeks before the whooping cranes
do. Can you think of a reason why sandhill cranes start the migration
earlier? It is still cold in the northern U. S. and early migrant cranes
of either species would be dealing with ice and snow. Here is a clue. The
answer has to do with where most sandhill cranes are currently and what
they are doing there.

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge


Copyright 2005 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to
Annenberg Web SiteToday's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North Journey North Home Page