Archive for the 'Whooping Cranes' Category

Whooper Week: A Rare Bird

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America.

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America.

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Whooping cranes may be one of the rarest bird species in North America, but they’re hard to miss.

When we look at whooping cranes, there’s really nothing on the landscape its size. We do have lots of Sandhill cranes here, wintering in Texas. But, the whooping crane is somewhere in the neighborhood of over five feet tall, and has a wing span of over seven feet. In reality, it’s mostly white, so they really show up on the landscape, and they’re very iconic. You can see them from a long distance. And when they’re flying, they appear to take up the sky. And so, they tend to be these iconic species that people are really drawn to.

Biologist, Shaun Oldenburger, says what really gives them away is their call. [Whooper call] Since the 1940s, we’ve gone from a low of 20 birds to 329 according to the 2015-2016 winter survey.

And so, that is pretty substantial over the 20 birds or so during the 1940s. And what is even more incredible is if you think about these birds is they have very high survival rates and very low reproductive rates. And so, they only nest once per season. They usually lay two eggs per year and nine times out of ten you only have one bird that is successful in fledging. When you look at that, it’s just really slow trying to bring the species back from the brink of extinction, and trying to bring those birds back to a recoverable level.

More good news tomorrow when Whooper Week continues.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Whooper Week: Protections Since 1941

Monday, October 16th, 2017
Whoopers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Whoopers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat, federal and state protections on Whooping Crane breeding and wintering grounds were enacted in 1941 to save the remaining 21 wild birds.

And we’ve steadily seen those whooping crane numbers come up farther and farther and farther. And currently now, when we look at Aransas national Wildlife Refuge on the coast of Texas, it is one of the major whooping crane birding spots in the world now.

Biologist, Shaun Oldenburger says the flock is currently 300 strong; it took a coordinated effort between the US and Canada to reach that number.

If we look back in the 1940s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service purchased Aransas National Wildlife Refuge – which was the major wintering grounds at the time for the last population that we had here in North America. Their breeding grounds also became a national park through Canada. Wood Buffalo National Park. And, also along through the migration corridor, there’s also been protections and closures of hunting seasons in the past, and just doing lots of activities and education to make sure that those birds succeed in spring and fall migration from their wintering and breeding grounds.

More about this iconic species tomorrow when Passport to Texas Whooper Week continues.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Whoopers Flying into Texas

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Whoopers in flight.

Whoopers in flight.

This is Passport to Texas

A flock of 308 endangered whooping cranes lives in Texas from October through April.

06- We fully expect to see the first of our migrating whoopers come into Texas in mid-to-late October.

The birds migrate from their summer breeding ground in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to their winter home at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
Texas Whooper Watch coordinator, Mark Klym, says the species has rebounded from a low of just 15 cranes in the 1940s to about 600 today worldwide.

21-There are also two other flocks in the US. One that migrates from Wisconsin to Florida, and a reintroduced flock in Louisiana. We really need at least one more flock before we can consider it relatively safe to start considering down-listing them. Or, we need a thousand birds in the Aransas to Wood Buffalo
National Park flock.

While the majority of Texas cranes spend the winter at the refuge, some end up in other parts of the state.

13-In recent years we’ve seen them moving up and down the coast, as well as inland–as far as Wichita Falls for the winter. So, it is possible to see whooping cranes during the winter almost anywhere in the eastern half of the state.

Be on the lookout for whoopers, and if you see them, add your observations to Texas Whooper Watch. Find details in the Texas Nature Tracker section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.