Whooping Crane Migration Update: Feb. 10, 2012
Please Report
Your Sightings!
Report Your Sightings
Welcome to a season of surprises! Most Whooping cranes are on their wintering grounds, while others have cut their migration short. This week, learn about the habitat that cranes need for winter survival. We have 24 photos and two slideshows to help you!

This Week's Update Includes:

Image of the Week
Young crane learns to hunt for blue crabs to eat.
Photo: Operation Migration
Nab a Crab!
News: A Most Unusual Season
This has definitely been a strange season!

Many Cranes Not on Usual Wintering Grounds

  • Almost half of the Eastern Migratory Population shortened their southward migration by hundreds of miles. In the last count of Eastern migratory whooping cranes, nearly 40 percent never flew south of Indiana.
  • Many of the whooping cranes that migrate between Canada and Texas each year didn't bother to come to Texas this winter. Cranes that would normally  winter on coastal Texas have stopped short in Nebraska and Kansas.

Late Arrival for the Class of 2011

  • The youngest cranes in the eastern flock have barely been on their wintering grounds for a week! When the nine youngsters in the Class of 2011 were unwilling to continue following their ultralight airplane leaders after many long delays, the journey south was cut short. Still in Alabama, they were transported by road to an unexpected winter home: Alabama's Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Crane Count is Down

  • Biologists were hoping to welcome a record 300 cranes to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas this winter. So far only 209 have been accounted for.

Weather Woes

  • A long drought in Texas has made fresh water and blue crabs harder for the Whooping cranes to find. This means they've had to move around more to search for food and water.

The cranes are keeping everyone guessing. It's going to be an adventure, and we're glad you're here!


Costumed handlers attach a legband on a young Whooping crane from the Class of 2011.
Photo: Operation Migration
Fast Teamwork
Eva glues the tracking transmitter on a young Whooping crane's leg as Brian and Ben hold the blindfolded bird.
Photo: Operation Migration
Hey! I can't see!
Radio-tracking transmitter for the Class of 2011 Whooping cranes
Photo: Operation Migration
Ready to Track
The Class of 2011 Whooping cranes are wearing their new leg bands!
Photo: Operation Migration
New Leg Jewelry
Photo Gallery: Cranes on the Wintering Grounds
After a long migration from the north, cranes need nourishment and rest. What conditions make the Whooping cranes' wintering habitats in Texas and Florida ideal? Explore and discover!

View the photo gallery to start asking questions. Then check out the slideshows to visit cranes from both flocks on their wintering grounds.

Record facts and observations on this journal page.


Photo gallery of Whooping cranes on the wintering grounds
Photo Gallery
The Migration: Coming Soon
Starting in March, you'll see the migration progress of both flocks — ALL the world's migratory Whooping cranes — live on our MapServer. Woo-hoo for whoopers! They're going to give us a fascinating show this spring!

Migration Route of Western Migratory Population Migration route of Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) Whooping Crane Map
Western Flock
Migration animation
Eastern Flock
Migration animation
The next Whooping Crane Migration Update: Posting on March 2, 2012.