The whooping crane migration has really gotten underway in a big way.
In the past week, an estimated 61 whooping cranes have headed north.
They are goint to
Wood Buffalo National Park in
the Northwest Territories of Canada. The nesting area is north of Aransas
by 2,500 miles. So far this spring, 77 cranes, or 36% of the flock of
214, have migrated. The only migration sighting reports yet are from
the Platte River
in Nebraska, and one sighting April 5 from South Dakota. That should
change this week, as I expect reports to start coming in from the 7 states
in the whooping crane migration corridor. Can you name those 7 states? Do
you live in one of them?
had an exciting census flight on April 5th. By the end of the day,
61 cranes have started the migration since the previous flight on
Watching Cranes Leave: An Exciting Flight
On today’s flight, we observed a pair
of cranes flying from the marsh towards a fresh water pond, presumably
to get a drink. But the pair kept flying past the pond. They seemed to
wander aimlessly, flapping and spiraling around in circles. But soon
the pair had gained altitude and was at 1,000 feet. We quickly climbed
above them in the airplane to keep them in sight. We
then noticed a second pair of cranes flying much lower down about 1⁄2
mile away from the first pair, but also flying in a spiral pattern.
now we had
two pairs to keep an eye on. They weren’t really making any
progress, but soon the pair that was higher started making progress
to the northwest as they glided down a little. The second pair
to them, but was still about 500 feet lower. What
a sight to see their huge 7.5-foot white wing span with black
wing tips, working hard to climb but also resting a lot as they
spiraled up. They seemed to be flying in and out of shade from
above them as they searched for thermal
currents. After about 10 minutes,
the two pairs had covered about 5 miles and were more than half
way across the Aransas refuge. It was clear they had started the
migration. We wished them well and headed back over the marshes to
we re-flew portions of the refuge and estimated at least 10 cranes
had started the migration that morning, all from the same general part
of the refuge. What a privilege it is to be able to watch a bird
start migration. They have so far to go!
the Long Reef Family
family group of whooping cranes was on the Platte River April
adult had a green band on the left leg. On today’s
census flight, I tried to find the three cranes at Aransas with
I found two out of the three; thus I knew which birds had been
on the Platte River. We notate this banded adult crane as "Green-high
silver" since it has an aluminum band on the right leg and
a large green
plastic band on the left leg. The banded bird was a juvenile in
makes him 18 years old. But here's the amazing thing: I saw
this bird at Aransas early on the morning of March 29th on their
next to Long Reef on San Jose Island. That’s my name for
this family: the Long Reef family. On the afternoon of April 1,
family group was on the Platte River in Nebraska. They had traveled
way in just 4 days!
up how many miles it is from Corpus Christi, Texas to Grand Island,
Nebraska. (Maybe the computer can help you.)
many miles a day would this family have to travel to go that
far in four days?
Good Conditions and Two Questions
for starting migration have been very good throughout the past week.
April 1 and April 5 were especially good, with strong southeast winds
gusting up to 30 mph. These tailwinds provide the
a helpful push, making their flight much easier. The cranes also
rely on thermal currents. They climb way up—as high as one mile—using
their huge wings to be lifted up on thermal currents.
another 75 or so whooping cranes to start the migration this coming
week. The migration seems right on schedule!
Whooping Crane Coordinator
North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our