Failed Nest for New Pair of Whooping Cranes

On Friday, Eva Szyszkoski, WCEP Tracking Field Manager, was kind enough to invite me along on a nest check. The 3 year old pair 7-11 and 10-11 had a nest in Marquette County, WI and they had been spotted together away from the nest. Unfortunately, seeing both adults away from the nest indicates a nest failure.

Before we made it to the wooded area where the nest had been spotted we had to trek through thick cattails and uneven marsh hummocks. I couldn’t help flashing back to my time in the marsh with 1-11 two years ago. Luckily, Eva was there to smack the hysteria out of me. We were back on our way in no time. Although heavily wooded, I couldn’t help feeling the location wasn’t that crazy. There seemed to be plenty of food, lots of water and it certainly wasn’t easy to get to.

It was great having someone as experienced as Eva take me along. She was able to point out things I wouldn’t have noticed. This was, after all, the first nest I have ever actually visited in the wild. It’s quite different from what I’ve seen in pens at Patuxent. Eva noted immediately that the nest was unusual because it had been constructed almost entirely with sticks as opposed to the grasses usually used by Whoopers. She was also able to tell from the one egg we found that it had been viable which, left me with a sweet and sour feeling. It’s great that the pair are producing viable eggs, but just as unfortunate that this viable egg didn’t make it.

Whooping crane nest

The long wet walk into the site. It’s about knee to thigh deep most of the way through. It’s really quite a unique terrain. I can’t say I’ve spent much time in flooded woods like this. Very neat.

Whooping crane nest

This next shot is of the nest. You can see, aside from the thin layer of grass over the top the majority of the structure is made out of sticks and twigs.

broken whooping crane egg

The final shot shows the one egg Eva and I were able to recover from the site. The egg was damaged somehow but we could only speculate as to what caused it.

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  1. WisReader May 19, 2014 11:56 am

    So is this that first nest that was reported earlier of a White River Marsh pair? Such a young pair! Maybe – hopefully – this is a sign of a successful nest for them in the future? Maybe next year!

    This is a fascinating post! It’s like “trekking-by-blog” right in there with Eva and Caleb. Thank you, Caleb!

    • Heather Ray May 19, 2014 12:15 pm

      Correct. It is the first nest of a White River Marsh pair and in the same area of Wisconsin

      • Heather Ray May 20, 2014 8:57 am

        This nest was located east of the Necedah NWR and it too failed late last week. Not surprising for such young cranes.

  2. Chix Laces May 19, 2014 11:35 am

    Great to have you back on the job, Caleb. Thanks for the pix

  3. Donald May 19, 2014 9:47 am

    Habitat, habitat, habitat.


  4. Doug Pellerin May 19, 2014 7:14 am

    Oh no, so sad.

  5. Warrenwesternpa May 19, 2014 6:48 am

    19 May 2014 Failed Nest … of Whooping Cranes Caleb Fairfax

    Hi Caleb: Thanks for the report and the pictures. I did not realize how big the eggs were, until comparing them to the size of your hands.