Saturday, June 20, 2009

Whooping Cranes

Here are some more pics of the two whooping cranes that I photographed flying over Necedah, NWR last October. The whooping crane, or whooper as it is frequently called, is found only in North America. It is the tallest bird in North America standing at almost 5 feet tall with a wingspan of over seven feet.
They got their name from the whooping call that the cranes make during the courtship process. Whoopers are ground nesters. They typically nest in marshy areas in around 10 inches of water to help prevent attacks from ground predators like fox and coyote. The nest is usually hidden in stands of bulrush or cattail. When they are born the young whoopers are flightless but can swim away from danger if necessary.
Due to habitat loss and hunting the whooping crane was brought to the brink of extinction. In 1941 there were only 15 wild whoopers left in North America. The whooper was put on the endangered species list and there are now several organizations that are working with the government to help increase the population of these birds.
Currently the wild whooper population stands at around 325. The bulk of the birds are the ancestors of the last flock of 15. They nest up in Wood Buffalo National Park, in Canada, and winter in Aransas NWR in southeast Texas. To try and prevent the complete loss of the whooper population, if something catastrophic where to happen to the remaining wild flock, a second flock was created using captive born birds. These birds are raised in Wisconsin, mostly Necedah, and using ultra light aircraft the bird are lead down to south Florida during migration. After their first migration the birds find their own way back north so that they can migrate on their own after that. This eastern migratory flock currently has around 80 birds. Both flocks have been growing around an average of about 4% each year.

19 comments:

madcobug said...

Those are beautiful shots. I remember reading a few years ago about light aircraft leading the birds south. Helen

Sandy Kessler said...

splendor in flight for sure sandy

James said...

Wonderful shot. I had no idea that there were so few let.

sixstars said...

Great photos again. Im surprised the cranes need a microlight to show them where to migrate to. For some reason I thought that must be instinctive behaviour.

Susan said...

Great shots!

Joy said...

Absolutely gorgeous shot!

Amanda Guthrie said...

What a treat to see these photos and your exposure perfection!It is not easy getting it right with all that white, great job!

dAwN said...

Very nice shots! Saw a few over the winter in Florida..soo big!

NatureStop said...

Amazing shots!

Shelley Munro said...

Great shots. I think it's great that the numbers are increasing. We have several endangered species in NZ and have reserves on offshore islands, which are predator free. This strategy seems to be working well.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

I'm going to be in Wisconsin in July. Hoping to work this place into my travel itinerary. Beautiful shot!

Grus said...

I have been reading your blog for a long time and really enjoy it. Your photography is wonderful. This summer I am working at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI, where the majority of the Whooping Crane eggs are produced for the ultralight program. They are part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership which is comprised of several entities all serving specific and critical roles for the effort of establishing a second flock of the birds somewhere other than Aransas. This is important because if something were to happen at Aransas, such as an oil spill, it could wipe out the entire population. The birds do have to be shown the route from WI to Florida, but only once, and then the birds find their way back to Necedah in the Spring, on their own. A very good place to learn more about Whooping and all the other species of cranes is:
http://www.sa.vingcranes.org/whoopingcrane.html
You can also get updates on the reintroduced flock. The very exciting news is that there are two chicks now in this reintroduced flock. One is from the same pair that successfully reared the only other chick from this group in 2006. The other was an egg from ICF that was put into a nest just outside of Necedah because the eggs that the pair had laid were infertile. Both chicks are being well cared for and are growing quickly.

Cezar and Léia said...

Magnificent shots! Very interesting post! Thanks a lot for sharing!
purrs and love
Luna(from Brazil)

Ecobirder said...

Thanks for the update Grus. We were just at Necedah last weekend but did not see any cranes on this trip. I am sure that the nesting cranes where the reason why some of the areas in the park were closed.

Sally in WA said...

Beautiful pictures.

Ladynred said...

What a fantastic shots and interesting bird as well.

Leora said...

Your shots have such detail. I hope the birds continue to thrive and multiply.

Karen said...

Those look amazing in flight...

Wonderful captures !!!

Kitty said...

Wonderful shots! That'd be a nice job - leading a party of migrating birds :)