Spring 2017 News
Looking Back 2001-2015

Coming Home
March 27, 2017 by Jane Duden

Eastern Whooping Cranes are migrating. A few have reached their nesting grounds, and it's time for the juveniles to leave Mom and Dad.

Juvenile #30-16 is back at Wisconsin's White River Marsh!
By Doug Pellerin

Where Are They Now?
Fantastic news! Parent-reared Juvenile #30-16 and his alloparents have completed spring migration! The adults were spotted deep in Wisconsin's White River Marsh on March 21. The juvenile male, first in his cohort to return, was spotted few hundred yards away two days later. "They likely chased him away now that they are back home," reasoned Operation Migration's Joe Duff. "That’s a good sign that the alloparents may breed this year and produce their own offspring. They taught PR30-16 how to migrate and to be wild, and maybe he taught them how to be good parents."

The eight juveniles in the Class of 2016 were last reported here (details on bio page):

  • one in Illinois
  • two in Tennessee
  • one in Arkansas
  • one in Alabama
  • one in Florida
  • one home again in Wisconsin's White River Marsh!

Luckily, the Class of 2016 has shown they can survive on their own. These young cranes without alloparents may actually complete the migration on their own. They sometimes get help by joining up with Sandhill Cranes in flight or at a migration stopover site. The cranes need wetlands during migration with clean air and water, where they can feed and socialize. What's next for juveniles that complete spring migration?

PR #30-16 on his own:
Juvenile PR #30-16, by himself after spring migration
Image Doug Pellerin

Leaving Mom and Dad
For families in the wild, Whooping Crane parents typically fly north to the nesting grounds with their young in the spring; however, it's not unheard of for parents to separate from their young on the wintering grounds, or along the migration route as they return north. Even if early separation occurs, the juveniles are able to find their way back to the summer breeding grounds because the parents showed their young the migration route the previous fall. Young #30-16 is the only crane who was successfully adopted into a family last fall, and his parents seem to have done the expected thing by shooing him off their territory.

After separating from their parents, juvenile cranes normally join subadult "bachelor groups" for a few years. They wander and explore, much like teenagers. Pairing often begins in these bachelor groups, often on the wintering grounds. When they are four or five years old, pairs will claim a nesting territory and begin to raise chicks of their own.

Not quite a year old, birds in the Class of 2016 are too young to pair up or breed. They will wander, hang out, explore and have fun on the summer breeding grounds or perhaps beyond. They have had an unusual start in life, without constant adult role models. They will be carefully watched to see what they do and where they go. Experts are still learning what it takes to start a new flock.

Stay tuned for more news ahead as this transition year unfolds!