The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and National Whooping Crane Coordinator.
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An aerial census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas on March 25, 2000 located 185 whooping cranes. The population this winter reached a record 188. In addition to the 185 presently at Aransas, two whooping cranes have been confirmed in Nebraska on the Platte River. One whooping crane, a color-banded adult female died around the end of December. She was 13 years old. This accounts for all 188 whooping cranes in the Aransas/Wood Buffalo flock.
A few whooping cranes usually start the migration the last week in March, so I anticipate a slightly lower count on my next flight. Most of the whooping cranes wait until April before they start the migration. This is very different from sandhill cranes that leave earlier and then "stage" in March on the Platte River in Nebraska where tens of thousands gather and spend weeks together. Whooping cranes never migrate in large groups. Instead, they usually travel in groups of 1-5 birds. This year, the two whooping cranes that
are currently in Nebraska presumably joined sandhills and migrated early.
Habitat conditions have recently improved at Aransas. Rains have lowered salinities just enough so that the cranes are drinking out of the marsh and not having to seek out fresh water. High tides have re- flooded the marshes, with some blue crabs once more available for the cranes. Hopefully, feeding the last month at Aransas on crabs which are very high in protein will provide the cranes the fat reserves they need to make the long 2,500-mile migration that can take up to a month. They will need this energy to nest as soon as they reach Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
Whooping Crane Coordinator
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
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Where applicable, CWS stands for Canadian Wildlife Service; USFWS is US Fish and Wildlife Service. Crane monitoring involves cooperative efforts and support by both countries.
Anyone wanting to contact Tom about the report or the whooping crane projects can reach him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane home pages at http://www.electrotex.com/aoc/. (Please link to the Texas Whooping Crane pages through the AOC main home page, as the URLs for the special site pages may change over time as updates and reviews occur.)
Corpus Christi, Texas