Eastern Migratory Population Update

Whooping Crane Update November 2015

The adult cranes are starting to move around and flock up in preparation for their fall migration, with one pair already seen in Indiana. The Ultralight-guided migration is already underway and the Direct Autumn Release birds have been banded and were officially released at Horicon NWR as of 3 November. The current maximum population size is 100 birds (52 males, 46 females, 2 unknown). Many thanks to our crane trackers at ICF, as well as Heather Ray, Wisconsin DNR pilots Bev Paulan and Mike Callahan, and the volunteers and public all working to help us keep an eye on our birds wherever they may roam.

Wild Chicks

W10_15 was last tracked with its parents (2_04/25_09) on Necedah NWR. Refuge staff has been working to capture and band this chick but so far it has proved elusive.

W18_15 is still with its parents (9_03/3_04) alternating between their summer territory at Necedah NWR and their first staging area farther south in Juneau Co. ICF staff have been working to capture and band this chick but this family group is also quite wily.

Parent-Reared Chicks

Three chicks raised by whooping cranes at Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center were released near potential surrogate whooping crane pairs at Necedah NWR (two on 20 September, one on 22 September). Though there was some initial interest between the chicks and adults, none of them stayed together very long.

14_15 (F) left Necedah NWR on 10/3, presumably with sandhills, and has been associating with sandhills in the fields and marsh near the Wisconsin River in Sauk Co, WI.

16_15 (M) found dead 10/6 (see “Mortalities” below).

20_15 (M) was tracked briefly in Monroe Co, but by early October was seen in Dubuque, IA. He was alone very close to a heavily populated area – right outside a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant near a highway and was frequently seen in the parking lot. After it became clear he was not following sandhill cranes and did not seem to be moving from the area on his own, ICF staff captured him and released him near 14_15 in Spring Green, WI (full story here). The day after his re-release he disappeared from Spring Green, and is currently located in Madison Co, Louisiana still without a single whooping or sandhill crane in the area. We will continue to monitor his location but for now he is in an appropriate area away from human activity. A big thank you to all the concerned citizens, the Dubuque Audubon Society, and the USFWS staff in Louisiana who helped us keep an eye on him.

DAR Cohort

The Direct Autumn Release birds raised at ICF were banded as of 22 October and officially released on 3 November 2015. The cohort consists of two males and six females. All birds are currently located at Horicon NWR and have had some encounters with male 18_11 as well as sandhill cranes.


22_13 (M) was found dead on 9/16/15. The suspected cause of death is predation. He was undergoing molt at the time of his death.

W3_15 (F) was found dead in Monroe Co on 9/21/15. The cause of death was pneumonia caused by a fungal infection in the lungs.

16_15 (M) was recovered on 10/6/15. The cause of death has not yet been determined.



Many thanks to Karis Ritenour, ICF for the update

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One Comment

  1. vannie Zychowicz November 5, 2015 7:58 am

    Think you for sharing this important information news about this year young whooper cranes you’s guys are doing a great job bring and careing for the young whooper cranes My hat is taking off to yous