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Were They Whoopers?
You Be the Judge

Tom Stehn's reply to the report of possible
whooper sighting (4/7/06)

You most likely were viewing white pelicans in migration. It is extremely difficult to tell whooping cranes and white pelicans apart at a distance when they are flying. Wing shape, color, and the spirial flight pattern are all identical. Both have black wing tips. You have to be able to see features such as neck, beak, or trailing legs to differentiate the two. At a distance, those features aren't visible without a spotting scope.

One big difference between the two species is that pelicans migrate in large groups, and whooping cranes do not. They typically migrate as singles, pairs, family groups (3 or 4), or small groups of no more than 8 birds. If you were seeing 10 or more birds, then they were pelicans.

Yesterday were perfect conditions for migration across Texas, mostly sunny skies and strong SE winds!

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