Spring 2017 News
Looking Back 2001-2015

Nesting Season Begins
April 10, 2017 by Jane Duden

Over half the flock has reached the Wisconsin nesting grounds. Breeding pairs are starting the next generation. How do cranes pick mates?

Male 24-09 (right) with his nesting mate in April 2016
Nesting season is urgent business for Whooping Cranes.
By Eva Szyszkoski


Where Are They Now?
Two of the remaining eight parent-reared juveniles from the Class of 2016 completed migration back to Wisconsin by April 1. Most recent to arrive was #71-16, who was reported in Grant County, WI.

When Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan flew her first aerial survey of the Wisconsin nesting grounds this weekend, she found more than 60 Whooping Cranes back on summer territories. At least ten breeding pairs have begun nest building! It's a busy season for cranes. About 30 more cranes, including the other six surviving juveniles released in autumn, are either still on wintering grounds or enroute north from Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida.

Between reports, the bio page is updated as we get news on the the Class of 2016's progress in making their first migration and homecoming. In the meantime, what's next for cranes of breeding age on the nesting grounds?

 
Juvenile PR #30-16, by himself after spring migration
Sue Kersey

Pick Me! Pick Me!
Cranes of breeding age are busy getting ready to raise the next generation. If you're a crane, how do you decide who will be a good mate to (1) help raise your chicks and (2) stay with you a long lifetime? You probably make this choice only once, so you want it right. You don't have as many choices as you would with a species that is not endangered.

If cranes could talk, they would say: Pick a crane with beautiful plumage. This shows shows the crane has had a good diet. The better nutrition they’ve had, the better they’ve been at getting nutrition—and thus the better they'll be at getting nutrition to their chicks. Pick a crane that's strong and fights for you. A strong and aggressive bird will be able to defend their territory and keep the babies protected and fed.

Does the male pick, or does the female pick? It partly depends on which gender has more members. The choice is tricky for both males and females in a species like Whooping Cranes, where there aren’t a lot of choices because the population is small. You know that two cranes are serious about their choice when they dance together.

 
Whooping Crane Chick
Klaus Nigge

It Takes Two
After finding a good mate, the male builds a roost platform on which the female and chicks will sleep at night. He builds it in the marsh so they can hear splashing of predators that may approach. The female lays one or two eggs. Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs to keep them warm. The parents on the nest turns the eggs often so all parts are evenly warmed and no parts stick to the shell. If two eggs hatch, the parents can raise them both. But the first chick to hatch sometimes kills the second.

Feeding hungry chicks is a big job for both parents. They must teach the chick what foods to eat and how to hunt. They stay near their chick at all times. the chicks are finally safer from predators once they learn to fly, at around 70-70 days of age. In six months, chicks are the size of their parents. Come fall, they must be ready to migrate hundreds of miles with their parents showing them the way.

The cranes will be busy from now on!