on Migrating Cranes: "Beware of the Probables"
Game Management Section Leader and Supervisor, Migratory Bird Game
Management, North Dakota Game and Fish Department
experienced birders and bird biologists can misidentify whooping
cranes in flight.
Michael Johnson offers his own example.
After reading, discuss what you learned from his comments!
years I have seen many whooping cranes. However, out of all the flocks
of flying sandhills I have scanned and watched over the
years, I don’t recall having ever seen whoopers flying with
the sandhills. Of course, we know that this is a frequent occurrence
this type of
sighting accounts for some of our reports.
Today, when I got back to the Bismarck [North Dakota] office after
lunch I noticed that the sky overhead was full of flocks of
sandhills — all calling noisily. I looked up and saw two very large
and very white birds with black wing-tips soaring within a flock of sandhill
cranes. I noticed the birds through my truck windshield before I had
even parked the truck — they were that obvious within the sandhill
Photo D. Sokoll
my binoculars for a better look and just to be sure that they weren’t
light-colored sandhills gleaming in the bright sunlight against the
sky. To my surprise the
were PELICANS! This is a first for me: pelicans soaring with sandhills. Without
binoculars I certainly would have called them whoopers, and it would
have been listed as a confirmed sighting.
been dealing with sandhill cranes and white pelicans for at least
39 years. I saw my first whooper probably 30 years ago and
have seen many whooping cranes, investigated countless
sightings and even handled a few
since then. I would say that I am an experience observer, but the lesson
is that a person should never assume.
P.S. As I write this, Dale Repnow stopped by to say he just got a call
from a citizen reporting two whooping cranes soaring with sandhills over
the Coca Cola plant just a few minutes ago. That plant is about where
I last saw the Sandshill crane/pelican flock as they flew off to the
of the probables! It may be useful to pass this message to others.
Crane ID: Will You Know a Whooper?