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I'd like you to meet a very special family in the natural flock.
The “Lobstick” Whooping
Cranes are quite well known. They are usually the first ones
when they get on the Whooping Crane tour boats and reach the Aransas
National Wildlife Refuge. About 8,000 people take a trip on
the tour boats every year. If Whooping Crane conservation had gotten
25 cents for every time a person has seen the Lobsticks and added “Whooping
Crane” to their life birding list, how much money would have
gone to help Whooping Cranes?
Did The Lobsticks Get Their Name?
The Lobsticks are named for their nesting area in Canada, located
in wetlands along Lobstick Creek. This area is actually just
outside of Wood Buffalo National Park on Indian territorial
land, a major
change in ownership that has occurred in the last decade as the
Northwest Territories’ government settled aboriginal land
claims. When summer aerial Whooping Crane surveys are conducted
in Canada from the airport in Fort Smith, the Lobsticks are the
first cranes you come to. First in summer and first in winter!
That strikes me as quite ironic.
Male: Hatched in 1978!
The Lobstick male is our oldest Whooping Crane of a known age.
He hatched in 1978. He will turn 30 years old in June.
Our oldest Whooping crane currently in captivity is currently
old. This captive crane is named “Rattler” and
lives at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
know Whooping Cranes can live into their 40s. We know how old
the Lobstick male is because when he was a young chick
days old and still unable to fly, two biologists ran out
from a helicopter and grabbed him and placed bands on his legs.
bands remained in place for 20 years, but finally fell off.
However, a pair is still using the same exact Lobstick marshes
and still wintering at the first tour boat stop at Aransas,
so we suspect the Lobstick male is still alive. A German
a few years ago proved it by recording the calls of the unbanded
male and comparing them with similar calls recorded from
was still banded. Analysis of the voice prints showed they
were unique for each crane. These bird voice prints are called
and actually are pictures of the sound waves.
Times a Father
Lobstick family in Canada with chick
Photo Brian Johns
Lobstick family in Texas with twins
Photo Diane Loyd
Lobstick male first nested in 1982 when he was 4 years old and
has nested every year since. The year 1982 is
when I first
started studying Whooping Cranes and I’ve been
doing it ever since. The Lobsticks have successfully
chicks to Aransas
in 14 different years. In two years (2001 and 2007),
the Lobsticks brought 2 chicks to Aransas. Whooping Cranes
lay two eggs, but usually only one chick out of the two
you think of reasons why usually only one chick survives?
total so far, the Lobsticks have brought 16 chicks to Aransas
out of 26 years of nesting. A good productive pair brings
on average about once every other year. You can see
that the Lobsticks have done better than that. They are some
of the best
parents in the flock. They should give parenting lessons
to other Whooping Cranes.
Crane Population Growth
The Lobsticks are a great example of how the Whooping Crane
population is continuing to grow in size. If every Whooping
Crane pair were
as productive as the Lobsticks, the growth of the flock
would be higher than the current average of 4.5% a year.
some pairs don’t nest every year, and some pairs
just hardly ever seem to raise a chick. The growth of
the Whooping Crane population
continues at a steady but slow pace.
write a little about why the growth rate for Whooping
Cranes is so low.
In the meantime, can you think of reasons why it is so
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge