Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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April 19, 2006

Dear Journey North,
We’re approaching the end of departures of the whooping cranes from Aransas! On a census flight today, I could only find 12 cranes. This is a drop from 35 found a week ago. Thus, 94.6% of the crane flock has migrated. The last 2 remaining family groups were among the 23 that started migration this past week.

Whoopers Right on Schedule
The big push-off of cranes heading north has occurred right on schedule. And why not? The weather in Texas has been windy and warm all week, perfect conditions to help the cranes migrate. Temperatures have been in the upper 80’s along the coast. About 30 miles inland, when you get away from the effects of the breeze crossing the cooler Gulf waters, temperatures have already reached 104 degrees. Imagine what summer in South Texas is like! However, the cranes may currently be facing very different conditions as they cross the U.S. The weather channel talked about 2 feet of snow that fell in South Dakota overnight. I remember when I followed radioed cranes during the spring migration 20 years ago; I first encountered snow banks along the road in the Dakotas. I stopped to take a photograph. The snow was quite a surprise for someone that lives at Aransas, where it rarely snows. What difficulties would snow storms cause for the cranes during migration?

The Lobstick Family (two subadults and one adult here) Aransas NWR, 2003
Photo Diane Loyd

Subadults and Adults: Different Migration Schedules
The 12 whooping cranes still at Aransas are all what I call “subadults.” Although they look identical to adult whooping cranes, subadults are 1-4 years of age and too young to breed. These subadults aren’t in any hurry to depart. After all, they aren’t going to build nests and raise young this summer.

In contrast, all the adult pairs have migrated. This occurs every year by April 20th. The adult pairs need to get going. They must make a rapid 2-3 week migration to reach Canada, build a nest, lay their eggs, and raise their young. The chicks have a lot of growing to do before fall, when the family will migrate together to Texas.

What About the Lone Juvenile, Left by Its Parents?
The juvenile whooping crane that last week had stayed behind when its parents migrated apparently got in the right frame of mind and headed north, possibly by itself. This juvenile should be fine. Even though it has only migrated one time last fall between the nesting grounds and Aransas, it will have no trouble migrating back north to the exact same marsh ponds where it grew up. Now that is quite a talent. Do you have as great a talent as that? Sure you do! Reading, writing, thinking and making friends laugh are pretty miraculous talents when you take the time to appreciate them!

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator


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