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Whooping Crane Migration Update: April 28, 2006

Today's Report Includes:

Eastern Flock Highlights
This week Chick #520, traveling with wayward adult #309, moved into Vermont--still the wrong place to be! Experts are realizing that when a bird doesn't return to the right place in the first year, the die may be cast. Despite their efforts to reorient the wayward bird, it may be too late to "reprogram" it. Says Operation Migration's Joe Duff, "That is why it is so important to retrieve #520, a hapless and inexperienced bird who just followed #309 to the wrong destination.” We'll keep you posted on any capture plans.


#528 returns April 24

Richard Urbanek

Also this week Chick #528, one of the four Direct Autumn Release (DAR) birds, became the first DAR (Direct Autumn Release) bird to arrive on the refuge in Wisconsin. She returned April 23 to the exact site where she was reared last summer! Find out locations for the other three DAR chicks, and all the older cranes in the Eastern Flock, here:

More Challenges to Survival
This spring has clearly showed that migration is only ONE challenge to survival for this endangered species. Nesting is difficult for birds in the new Eastern flock. This week, another nest was destroyed by predators. You can cross off the nest of pair #213 and #218, too. When they left their nest unguarded and went off to forage, experts didn't want to risk the eggs being destroyed by a predator. When the pair hadn't returned a few hours later, the eggs were gone. You might be surprised to learn who took them, and why! Click on the links in the chart for the photo stories.
After reading the links, write your thoughts:

Journaling Question: What's your prediction? Will 2006 bring the first chicks hatched in the Eastern flock? If the eggs of #213 and #218 hatch, how should the chicks be raised? Explain

Eastern Flock Nest Status

Pair Began Incubating Status
213 and 218 April 6 Eggs removed and taken to ICF April 24
203 and 317 April 7 Eggs lost to predator Apr. 15 or 16
101 and 202 April 7 Eggs lost April 16
211 and 217 April 11 Eggs destroyed ~April 20
209 and 302 April 13 Still incubating!

Whooping Crane Coordinator Tom Stehn says, “It is 'uncommon' for whooping crane pairs in Canada to lose eggs to predators. Dr. Richard Urbanek reports that the attentiveness of the whooping crane pairs in Wisconsin has increased and is better than last year. Hopefully they'll re-nest, but its not a given for whooping cranes the way it is for some bird species.”

You'll hear more from other crane experts when you click on the Discussion of Challenge Question #10, below.

Western Flock: Brian Johns Reports Cranes on the Nesting Grounds!


The first cranes from Texas have now reached the Canadian nesting grounds! Biologist Brian Johns sent the exciting news. He introduces us to the Bull's Eye Lake pair, sighted en route for the nesting grounds in the vast wilderness of Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park. What do you think is the most surprising thing about this crane pair?

(Click under the photo to see pictures of Brian at work.)
Meet Brian Johns at the whoopers' Canadian Nesting Grounds!

Western Flock: Tom Stehn Reports Wintering Grounds Emptying Out

“We're down to only 7 whooping cranes left at Aransas,” reports Tom after his Wednesday census flight. “The other 207 whooping cranes have all migrated,” reports Tom Stehn from the Texas wintering grounds. “The first whooping cranes could be arriving at their nesting territories at Wood Buffalo National Park any day now.”

Why are whooping cranes so individualistic that some have nearly completed their 2,500-mile migration while others haven't even started? Tom tells us why it's important for individual cranes to differ biologically from other members of the group. (He says it's true for humans, too.)

It's almost May, but the whooping cranes that migrated through the Dakotas last week ran into snow. Snow is a BIG problem for these birds. What are the biggest risks of snow during migration? See:

Do you live along the Texas/Canada migration path? Keep your eyes on the skies. You might get lucky and see a whooping crane! See the latest list of confirmed sightings of cranes from Texas to Canada. (Thanks to Martha Tacha of the USFWS in Grand Island Nebraska for reporting!)




Why Do the Subadults Go North? Challenge Question #11
In his report this week, Tom Stehn wondered: “Why hasn't a migration pattern evolved so that the younger non-breeding cranes would remain at Aransas for 2-3 years until they get mates and are ready to breed? By staying at Aransas for several years, they would avoid the dangers associated with making at least 5 migration trips. Why do you think all the whooping cranes in this flock return to Canada every summer?” Send us your answer to:

Challenge Question #11:
"Why do you think ALL the Western whooping cranes, including subadults, make the risky migration north to Canada every summer?"

To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow these instructions.

What Happened?
The Case of the Missing Eggs: Discussion of Challenge Question #10 

Last week we asked: “Which crane pair that nested in 2005 and 2006 has not yet learned how to keep eggs safe? Why do you think they're having trouble keeping eggs safe?”

Congratulations to sixth grade homeschooler Marcus, who clearly knows what the future crane parents need to learn.

Marcus's ideas, along with those of experts Laura, Sara and Joe help us to look deeper into what might have gone wrong. We all have something to learn from this discussion. Please see it here:

The Next Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on May 5, 2006.

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