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Greetings all!

The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator.

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WHOOPING CRANE UPDATE / JUNE 29, 2006


It has been a RECORD production year for all three whooping crane populations in the wild! In addition, the captive flocks have produced nearly 30 chicks that will be reintroduced back into the eastern migratory population and approximately 6 chicks with especially valuable genetics that will be kept in captivity for breeding.

Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada

Production surveys on the nesting grounds carried out June 13-17 in a Partanavia twin-engine aircraft piloted by Jim Bredy, USFWS-Region II documented a record hatch of 76 chicks from the record 62 nests found by Brian Johns and Lea Craig-Moore of the Canadian Wildlife Service in May. Previous highs were 66 chicks hatched and 61 nests found a few years ago. Fifty-two of the 62 nests (84%) produced one or more chicks. The 76 chicks included 24 sets of twins. The record chick production in 2006 resulted from both high productivity and a large number of nests. An estimated 9 known adult pairs including two single adults failed to nest but were present on their territories, comparable to the 7 pairs that failed to nest in 2005. Thus, there are an estimated 71 breeding pairs in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population.

Water conditions on the nesting grounds looked slightly above average and the weather was good throughout most of June, so I am optimistic that survival of the chicks will be above average. Based on the excellent production in June, approximately 230+ whooping cranes are expected to reach Aransas in the fall, surpassing the record high of 220 present in the 2005-06 winter. This increase of the population is anticipated since it is in the growth portion of the 10-year population cycle that has occurred during the middle of every decade.

I thank the Refuge and Endangered Species divisions of USFWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service for funding the June production surveys and acknowledge the tremendous skill of Pilot Jim Bredy and Canadian Whooping Crane Coordinator Brian Johns for his knowledge of the nesting pairs in the virtual maize of small ponds that characterize the nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Three whooping cranes did not migrate and are still at Aransas. The three includes the 2004 Lobstick chick that was injured in spring 2005 and has not migrated in 2005 or 2006. All three cranes look fine, but I always worry that the failure to migrate is an indication of a health problem.

Florida

It has been a record production year for the nonmigratory whooping crane flock in central Florida. Five chicks are still surviving from a total of 7 chicks hatched from 12 nests. Recent rains have improved wetland habitat that had been dealing with drought.

Wisconsin

On June 22nd, the first wild whooping crane chicks were hatched in Wisconsin in over 100 years. The parents were both 4-year-old whooping cranes hatched in captivity at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and led in migration in 2002 behind ultralight aircraft from central Wisconsin to Florida. The hatching of the twin chicks validates that captive whooping cranes isolation-raised and taught a migration have all the behaviors needed to become successful parents.

From a Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership news release:
"This is a long awaited moment," said Signe Holtz, director of the
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Bureau of Endangered
Resources, "the success of this effort sets a goal for endangered
species recovery efforts everywhere. The partnership of public,
private and government organizations that has made this possible
shows what can be done when we all pull together with a common goal
in sight. These chicks have a long and dangerous road ahead of them,
but with luck we'll see them wing south with their parents this
fall."

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Aransas NWR
P.O. Box 100
Austwell, TX 77950
(361) 286-3559 Ext. 221
fax (361) 286-3722
E:mail: tom_stehn@fws.gov

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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, plus many volunteers and non-profit organizations along the way.

Anyone wanting to contact Tom about the report or the whooping crane projects can reach him via email at: tom_stehn@fws.gov. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane web site at http://www.ccbirding.com/

Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX
email: patty@ccbirding.com
web: http://www.ccbirding.com/