Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
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Whooping Crane Migration Update: May 5, 2006

Today's Report Includes:

Eastern Flock Migration Highlights

Three 2005 ultralight-led crane kids still have not completed their first journey north. Cranes #516 and #522 remain in Decatur County, Indiana, where they landed April 4. Young #520 is still with wayward #309. The two flew back to New York this week, to the general area where they were before. The team's Sara Zimorski said, “We're planning to go there on Friday (May 5) to try and catch them--if they don't move again!” Stay tuned; we'll let you know what happens.
* DAR crane #532 is home! His radio signals were detected May 4, and then he was seen (see photo) on a marsh in central Wisconsin. Three of the four HY2005 DAR (Direct autumn Release) whooping cranes have now successfully completed their first round-trip migration. DAR #533 currently remains at a migration stop in Barry County, Michigan.
* The nest of #209 and #302 was lost a week ago (see photo in Web report). It was the last of this spring's five new nests. No whooping cranes in this flock are incubating (sitting on eggs) at this time.
* Crane #216's injured leg appeared better this week. He still limps badly and uses his wings for balance when walking, but his leg was capable of bearing very limited weight.

* The group of 14 HY2005 juveniles that migrated together has split into several groups in their summer home. The birds are now about one year old, so wandering is normal behavior.

DAR #532 is home!

Photo Chris Malachowski

Western Flock Nears Nesting Grounds: Brian Johns Reports

The whoopers continue to move through Saskatchewan, Canada on their way north to the nesting grounds. Some parents that hatched chicks last summer may still have their young with them. Others won't. Why not? It's time for the young to leave home and go off on their own! Brian explains what happens as the juveniles go off alone so the parents can prepare for the next generation:

Dig out your journals and check the weather in crane habitat.

Meet Brian Johns at the whoopers' Canadian Nesting Grounds!

Leaving the Parents: Challenge Question #12
In some species, like humans, the young spend many years with parents before they’re ready to leave. In other species, like robins and hummingbirds, it’s just a few weeks. You just read about whooping cranes in Brian’s report. Now consider this, and send us your answer!

Challenge Question #12:
“What skills must a young crane learn from its parents before it's ready for life on its own? (Start your list from time of hatching. Go through the first year of life, ending with spring migration.) Which of these skills can YOU already do? Which will you need more time and experience to learn?”

To respond to this question, please follow these instructions.

Western Flock in Texas: Tom Stehn Reports

Only one of the seven subadults Tom counted last week has left on migration this week. Tom spotted something important on the remaining cranes: their dingy white color indicated feathers that are frayed, worn out, and in need of replacement. Tom explains molting. When and where do they grow new feathers? How does it cause danger for the cranes? Find out here:

Eggs on a Journey
Good news! The two precious eggs collected April 24 from #213 and 218’s nest both hold living chicks. You recall those two eggs were collected when the parents left the nest unguarded for several hours. Experts took the eggs to ICF for further incubation. Yesterday (May 4) the eggs traveled again. They were shipped to the captive breeding center in Maryland. There, at Patuxent (say Pa TUX ent) Wildlife Research Center, we hope these eggs will hatch chicks. If so, those new chicks will be part of the next new group for the fall 2006 ultralight-led migration.

This egg case is used to transport eggs. Foam protects the eggs.

Photo Mark Nipper, Operation Migration
Crane eggs range in color, with spots/speckles on them for camouflage. These eggs are decoys. Experts make sure to have a good match when they replace a real egg that is removed from the nest.

Photo Mark Nipper, Operation Migration
The crane-rearing facility at Patuxent Wildlife Research Cente is off-limits to the public.

Photo Jane Duden

The two eggs of #209 and #302 aren’t the only valuable whooping crane eggs traveling this week. Sara reports, “Along with those two eggs, we are sending 4 additional eggs from ICF. Canada’s Calgary Zoo also sent 3 or 4 eggs to Patuxent yesterday (May 4). There will probably be a second shipment from ICF and Calgary next week. I believe the Audubon Species Survival Center will also be sending one egg in the next two weeks.”

But what does it take to ship those eggs? Think about what a very busy Tom Stehn told us yesterday about the eggs coming from Canada to the United States: “The day is settling down, with I hope 4 eggs currently sitting in the Chicago airport and inspectors en route to clear them on to Baltimore (Patuxent). The stack of permit forms needed to bring endangered species across the border is 1/16th of an inch thick. That keeps me busy with lots of associated deadlines. Another import is scheduled for next week since Calgary's captive flock is having a boom of a production year.”

Chick #501 hatched last year on April 19. We are still waiting for #601, the first chick this year!

Photo WCEP

The Eastern Flock's Next Generation
Awaiting those eggs at Patuxent are Mark Nipper and more experts. Patuxent’s captive whooping cranes are laying eggs too. “Our first chick is due on May 7th, and we have eight other eggs that may potentially hatch that same week! The staff keep finding more eggs all the time,” says Mark.

About 36 eggs are needed to build a cohort for the ultralight project in 2006. We’ll meet the new chicks next fall. Please join us when we follow every day of their first journey south with ultralight planes teaching them the way.

All these efforts are part of a big plan to bring whooping cranes back to eastern North America. With all these eggs, year six of the plan is hatching!

Why Do the Subadults Go North? Discussion of Challenge Question #11
Biologist Tom Stehn wondered why non-breeding cranes don't just stay Aransas for 2-3 years until they get mates and are ready to breed. We asked: "Why do you think ALL the Western whooping cranes, including subadults, make the risky migration north to Canada every summer?"
Students who responded did some great thinking about a tough question! Tom adds his thoughts, showing us all that scientists consider possible answers when they can’t know for certain. See your thoughts and Tom’s here:
Year-End Evaluation: Please Share Your Thoughts!
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The FINAL Crane Migration Update Will Be Posted on MAY 12, 2006.

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