Necedah National Wildlife Refuge will receive $210,000.00 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Recovery Initiative, a highly competitive grant. This funding initiative is designed to support nearly 300 threatened and endangered species found in and around national wildlife refuges. Only four grants were awarded this year. Necedah’s grant will support three years of research to expand the limited understanding of multiple factors that influence nesting whooping cranes. Research under this grant will be conducted from this spring in 2014 through 2016.
More specifically, this research will focus on when whooping cranes choose to nest. Whooping cranes present an interesting challenge to biologists because of these keys variables: whooping cranes have been introduced to an area, have learned to forage, select habitat, and migrate, yet they are still struggling in reproducing offspring.
There are a number of factors that play into why this could be happening. By selecting one aspect of nesting, with as many other factors as constant as possible, biologists will research and manipulate the timing of nesting to increase the potential for wild whooping cranes hatching wild chicks. “What intrigues us is that this technique will adjust cranes to the environment, not adjust the environment to the cranes,” explained Refuge Manager Doug Staller.
Biologists have recorded evidence that late spring nests produce a higher number of wild whooping crane chicks. The research is aimed at shifting when whooping cranes nest and will provide a better understanding of factors influencing whooping crane nesting success. After three years the intent is that the research will provide much needed information on the biological needs of this flock of whooping cranes. It will provide answers to help evaluate the financial costs of this reintroduction and will better inform future decisions and strategies for the survival of the whooping crane.
Research updates will be shared annually through print media, at the visitor center, as well as the refuge website and Facebook page. Biologists and staff of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge invite the public to view these magnificent birds, in the wild, from late March to early November each year.
View whooping cranes from the comfort of the visitor center, located two miles north of Hwy 21, just four miles west of Necedah. Hike the visitor center trails or drive along Goose and Sprague Pools to photograph these beautiful birds.
For more information about Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/necedah/