tell you exactly how many Whooping Cranes have started the migration
from Texas. That's because the aircraft I hire to fly in is having
routine maintenance done. I hope to
10, right around the time when many adult pairs choose to start
the migration. I'll have the latest counts for you next week, so
Photo B. Krein
Tall Tale — and the Real Truth
It was exceptionally
windy here the last week in March. Every day brought wind gusts
as 40 miles per hour. I always joke with people that when it's
windy like that, saying the Whoopers (which weigh only 12-15 pounds)
could simply jump in the air with their wings spread and get blown
north for the first mile of the migration before they would come
down. That's a tall tale. Yet most of the Whooping Cranes chose
to remain in Texas, knowing with their internal clock that it
is still too cold up north to start their trip. The majority
of the flock always starts migration the first two weeks in April.
This allows them to reach Canada and build their
nests in early May, just after the ice and snow have melted.
Whoopers are Different from Sandhills
Cranes have a different internal clock than whoopers. Most Sandhills
are currently on the Platte River in Nebraska and some are already
starting the second part of their migration. The Sandhills spend
up to 6 weeks on the Platte River, a phenomenon biologists refer
to as staging.
On the Platte, up to 600,000 sandhill cranes will feed and choose
mates before they fly to their nesting areas. Whooping Cranes don't
have any staging area in the spring. When they leave
Texas, they get to Canada as fast as the winds and weather will allow
them to go — a trip they can complete in 2 to 3 weeks. The
Whooping Cranes that migrate between Florida and Wisconsin also have
a rapid journey that they can sometimes complete in 10 days.
Some Good Questions
Once North America had as many as 10,000 Whooping Cranes
but they declined to no more than 1,400 birds by around 1870. By
1941 the number fell to an all-time low of 21
are there over 600,000 sandhill cranes in the Central Flyway
and only 237 whooping cranes?
has the sandhill crane been so successful?
the 15 crane species in the world, are most
the ones that are white in color the most endangered?
ideas in your journal. Then see what I think. >>
Important Step Taken
of the most important steps in saving the Whooping Crane was the
protection of their
summer and winter homes. The Wood
Buffalo National Park in Canada
was established in 1922, and Aransas was protected
a majority of the mortality of Whooping Cranes occurs
during migration. That is why it is so important
to learn as much as we can about what they need to
You can help by spreading the word and telling what you know!
Whooping Crane Coordinator