Cranes and Lake Michigan: What to Do?
30, 2004 Report by Sara Zimorski, ICF/WCEP
On April 24, 2004, the smaller group of three Ohio cranes [Group 1B on
the migration map] departed the area where they’d been since April
9 and flew in the correct direction towards central WI before encountering
the eastern edge of Lake Michigan. On April 25 they hit the lake at the
exact same area the Ohio group of 5 cranes did their last attempt
to continue migration on April 10. All of these birds were trying to do
the right thing, trying to get home to central Wisconsin. But the lake
is a huge obstacle that they don't know how to get around. Additionally,
if the birds were to find their way around the south edge of the lake,
they'd likely need a SE wind and they simply haven't had that in the recent
Bird Team Discussion: What to Do?
There are various thoughts and opinions among the team about
whether to leave the eight young whooping cranes where they are or attempt
to capture them and transport back to Wisconsin. We could learn a lot
by leaving these birds where they are and seeing what they choose to do
on their own; can they figure out how to get around the lake? We don't
know. It could also be logistically difficult to capture all of these
birds and obviously we're cautious about doing that after #207's death
last year. However, these 8 birds are 22% of the current eastern population
and that's a very large percentage to have in an area so far from our
designated reintroduction area. Additionally, these birds have not yet
completed their spring migration, whereas the birds that went to S. Dakota
last year first returned to Necedah then left and wandered out to S. Dakota.
Finally, the available habitat in these areas and our ability to closely
monitor these birds has to be considered when deciding what to do with
The Plan for Now...
What we ended up deciding is a bit of a wait and see approach. Richard
will stay in Michigan and watch them for at least several more days. Then
we'll probably discuss the situation again. The birds in Michigan
are in a good location. It’s good habitat and remote from people,
and so far the Ohio birds are staying out of trouble. So for now, the
birds are fine where they are. It will certainly be an interesting spring,
and what will happen is anyone's guess at this point.
This! Journaling Question
- This is
the first group of ultracranes in 3 years that seems to be stopped by
the obstacle of Lake Michigan. Why do you think this is happening? Imagine
you are on the Bird Team. What would YOU suggest as a good course of
North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).