Alone in Nebraska
fall 2008 a whooping crane juvenile separated from its parents in Nebraska
during the fall migration. the
young crane stayed near the town of Alma, Nebraska, for over a
month. It stayed so long that
sandhill cranes — thousands of them — had
already migrated past the youngster on their way south.
No Sandhill Cranes to Help
a young whooping crane
starts hanging out with
sandhill cranes. The experienced sandhills form into large flocks
and all of them help watch out for predators. The sandhills
also teach the juvenile whooping crane to continue flying south
But this particular youngster was all alone with
no other cranes around to help it. We
were very worried, but the juvenile
appeared to be okay. It had plenty to eat, either in the pond
where it spent the night (that’s a clue as to how whooping
cranes stay safe at night), or in a nearby corn field.
Listening to Instinct
than a month went by. Very cold weather hit during the first week
in December. Biologists called me to discuss whether they should
young whooping crane and transport it south to Aransas if the
weather got worse. On December 5, with its roost pond finally frozen
the baby crane instinctively knew it had to find safety — and
it continued its migration south. What an amazing miracle instinct
Lost and Found
several weeks we did not
know where the crane was. Then it re-appeared
again with no other sandhill cranes around.
one more spell of cold weather and having its roost pond
bird moved a little bit further south in Oklahoma. There
were long periods when we did not know where the juvenile was or
Hooray for "Junior!"
then on February 20th, 2009, I got a message that a juvenile whooping
was on the Platte River in Nebraska with
thousands of sandhill
My guess is that “junior,” all by itself in Oklahoma,
had started seeing sandhill cranes begin the spring migration.
So the whooping crane
joined in the fun and flew up to Nebraska! The thousands
of bird watchers that travel to the Platte River every spring
over half a million
sandhill cranes that congregate on the Platte will be thrilled
if they can glimpse this one whooping crane juvenile.
A Happy Prediction
year old by spring 2009, this juvenile has learned how to survive from
predators. It will return to the nesting grounds in Canada this summer
up with other young whooping cranes. At about age 3, this
bird will find a
mate, and I expect its mate will bring it to Aransas at last.