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Subject:[mou-net] Whooping Crane national update
From:Rare Bird Alert <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Wed, 31 Aug 2011 09:49:53 -0600

Here's the latest update on the Whooping Crane popualtion from the Reco=
team.  Special thanks to Tom Stehn, national recovery team coordinator,=

Aransas NWR, who has been a tireless advocate for this species and who =
be retiring in the fall.  The population has made an amazing surge from=
14-20 or so birds that characterized the 1950's and was dutifully repor=
on by the Chicago Tribune.  Every fall I held my breath until I read th=
little updated paragraph usually well-hidden on page 23 or some such pa=
of that newspaper.  Bob Russell, USFWS


The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWBP) of whooping cranes rebounded=

from 263 in the spring of 2010 to 279 in the spring, 2011.  With
approximately 37 chicks fledged from a record 75 nests in August 2011, =
flock size should reach record levels of around 300 this fall.  Threats=
the flock in Texas including land development, reduced freshwater inflo=
the spread of black mangrove, the long-term decline of blue crab
populations, sea level rise, land subsidence, and wind farm and power l=
construction in the migration corridor all continue to be important iss=

Twelve whooping crane juveniles were captured in Wood Buffalo National =
(WBNP) in August 2011, bringing the total number of radioed birds to 23=
Crews visited migration stopover sites to gather habitat use data.  Thi=
project is being carried out by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with
partners including The Crane Trust, Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), U.=
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and others.  It is funded by the Plat=
River Recovery Implementation Program, The Crane Trust, and the Norther=
Prairie Wildlife Research Center.  The tracking is the first done on th=
AWBP in 25 years and is a top research priority of the Whooping Crane
Recovery Team!  Since the 1950s, 525 AWBP whooping cranes have died wit=
only 50 carcasses recovered, and approximate cause of death was determi=
in only 38 instances.  It is imperative that we learn more about whoopi=
crane mortality.

Based on opportunistic sightings, the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracki=
Project documented 79 confirmed sightings of whooping cranes in the U.S=
Central Flyway during fall, 2010 and 49 sightings in spring, 2011.

Ten captive-raised whooping cranes were released in February, 2011 at W=
Lake, Louisiana where a non-migratory flock had resided up until 1950.
Seven of the birds were alive after the first seven months of the proje=

Production in the wild from reintroduced flocks in 2011 was again very
disappointing with no chicks fledged in Florida or Wisconsin.  Incubati=
behavior in Florida and nest abandonment in Wisconsin continued to be t=
focus of research.  Data collected so far in Wisconsin indicates that
swarms of black flies play some kind of role in a majority of nest

The captive flocks had a good production season in 2011.  Approximately=
chicks were raised in captivity for the non-migratory flock in Louisian=
and 18 chicks are headed for Wisconsin (10 for the ultralight project a=
the White River marshes, and 8 for Direct Autumn Release at Horicon
National Wildlife Refuge).  Approximately four chicks of high genetic v=
were held back for the captive flocks.

Including juvenile cranes expected to be reintroduced this fall, flock
sizes are estimated at 278 for the AWBP, 115 for the WI to FL flock, 20=

nonmigratory birds in Florida, and 24 in Louisiana.  With 162 cranes in=

captivity, the total of whooping cranes is 599.

In personnel actions, Dr. Mark Bidwell is the new Canadian whooping cra=
coordinator.  U.S. whooping crane coordinator Tom Stehn will be retirin=
September 30, 2011 after 29 years at Aransas.

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