Archive for the 'Whooping Cranes' Category

Great Comeback for Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Whooping crane pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas

The majestic Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and has a wingspan of seven and a half feet. But even with its impressive size, the Whooping Crane nearly became extinct, and in 1970 the bird was listed as an endangered species.

They are still federally listed as endangered. The population will be classified as such until they get around a thousand.

Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Once we get to that thousand population number the US Fish and Wildlife Service will readdress the status of the bird and potentially delist it. And that’s the ultimate goal is protect enough habitat and have enough birds that we can keep them off the list.

That habitat is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Due to massive conservation efforts over several years, the Whooping Crane population once in the teens, now number the hundreds.

The outlook for the Whooping Crane is very positive. Just through years of successful reproduction, good wintering habitat down here, they’re on their way to total recovery.

That’s good news, and validation that conversation and management of Whooping Cranes will ensure survival of the species.

Whooping cranes began their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September.

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

Whooper Week: Become a Whooper Watcher

Friday, October 20th, 2017
Whooping crane in flight.

Whooping crane in flight.

This is Passport to Texas’ Whooper Week

People of all ages can become citizen scientists through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Nature Trackers program.

Texas Nature Trackers is a program that gets citizens involved in helping us collect data on rare species.

Marsha May is a biologist in the program, which includes Texas Whooper Watch. When Whooper Watch started in 2011, the state was in drought; this affected wetlands at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the whoopers winter.

Their main diet down there is the blue crab. But, that particular year [2011], there was not a lot of freshwater coming down to the coast, so the wetlands were really salty. So, a lot of the birds went further inland.

Two hundred miles farther inland at Granger Lake, where they ate mussels instead of their usual diet of crabs.

That’s where Texas Whooper Watch comes in. We want to get sightings of whoopers outside of their normal range at Aransas. Is this something that’s going to happen continually in the future? Are they expanding their range? These are questions we would really would like to see answered. Citizen scientists can get involved by documenting birds in the areas where they’re not normally found.

Find details on Texas Whooper Watch on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Help Track Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 19th, 2017
A whooping crane in quiet contemplation.

A whooping crane in quiet contemplation.

This is Passport to Texas…Whooper Week.

October brings mild temperatures and Whooping Cranes to Texas.

Mid-October is when they start coming back to Texas. So, it’s a great time to start looking for them.

Marsha May is a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

They basically come through the central portion of the state. So, it’s that route between Canada and Aransas National Wildlife refuge.

Marsha oversees several Texas Nature Tracker projects, including Texas Whooper Watch.

Texas Whooper Watch started 2011, about the time we had that drought. Because we were seeing whooping cranes going to new locations that we had never seen before. They were showing up at Granger Lake; two or three hundred miles north of their natural wintering habitat.

If you catch sight of a whooper, join the growing ranks of citizen scientists: document your sighting with the iNaturalist app.

Citizen scientists with Texas Nature Trackers collect data using iNaturalist. You can use your smart phone to take pictures of things and that data comes back into iNaturalist; and that’s data that we can use for many different things.

More on Texas Nature Trackers and Whooper Watch tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Population on the Rise

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
Whooper chick and adult in Canada. Image from Whooper Conservation Society.

Whooper chick and adult in Canada. Image from Whooper Conservation Society.

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Whooping cranes are headed to the Texas coast from their breeding grounds in Canada, and some of us might spot them along the way.

There’s this funnel that happens just to the west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area that these birds funnel through and then come down to winter on Aransas [National Wildlife Refuge] .

Whooping crane migration path.

Biologist Shaun Oldenburger says it’s not uncommon for the birds to “fall out” along their flight path.

Early October through late October, around the red River Region, some birds fall out there. And then make their way finally down to the coast. So, they start falling out there, but for the most part, all those birds will push to the coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge by November.

There will be more of them, too. During the last winter survey their population numbered 329 members.

20— This last year in Canada they produced 98 nests, which was a record. And of those 98 nests they had 63 birds fledge, which was an all-time record. And that was more than 15 birds over the previous record.

Whether you view the birds in transit… or at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge…

Just make sure you don’t disturb them, keep your distance, and enjoy your time viewing them.

Despite Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the coast, the Whooper’s wintering grounds is ready to support them.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

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.