Wintering Whooping Cranes – an adult with a first-year bird – feeding in the shallows along the Texas coast (photo by Paul Konrad).
Whooping Crane numbers in the Central Flyway migratory population remained stable at an estimated 504 individuals according to Wade Harrell, the U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator, who provided the following information: Last summer, a total of 97 Whooping Crane nests were counted during aerial surveys in their nesting area in northern Canada in May, and during August, 37 fledglings were counted with adult pairs before the population began migrating south.
Each year the Central Flyway population of Whooping Cranes migrates between their nesting range in and adjacent to Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park on the border of the Northwest Territories and Alberta to their wintering range along the Gulf Coast of Texas, centered at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Overall, Whoopers migrate a distance of about 2,500 miles, which with some extended stopovers, especially in Saskatchewan, can take up to 50 days to complete.
During recent years, reintroduction efforts have been conducted to establish additional populations where Whooping Cranes formerly ranged. To date, three new populations have been established; one migratory population that nests primarily in Wisconsin, and two non-migratory populations that have been reintroduced in Louisiana and Florida.
Last week, the International Crane Foundation reported the current estimated population size of the Eastern Migratory Population is 86. The first week of January, the Eastern Whoopers were wintering in 7 states, including 34 in Indiana, 20 in Alabama, 9 in Illinois, 4 in Kentucky, 2 in Tennessee, and 2 in Florida. Also, based on earlier sightings, it is assumed there are 2 more Whooping Cranes in Georgia and 3 more in Kentucky, although these 5 cranes were not confirmed during December.
The two non-migratory populations in Louisiana and Florida are reported to number 74 and 11 respectively, according to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association most recent information.
To learn more about the current population status of Whooping Cranes wintering near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, you can visit
https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=6442458081 and for information about the reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population you can refer to https://www.savingcranes.org/whooping-crane-eastern-population-update-jan-20/