Spring Whooper Migration

Considering most of us have just experienced one of the warmest winters on record, it’s little wonder migration has begun earlier than usual.

We already have a handful of Whooping cranes back in Wisconsin, including 18-11, 16-11 at Horicon Marsh. Others were spotted in flight over various counties in Illinois Friday afternoon but it’s nearly impossible to see legbands while they’re in flight due to distance, lighting and the fact that often the plush feathers hide the legbands.

Marie Ayr captured this image in DuPage County, IL on Friday.

Marie Ayr captured this image in DuPage County, IL on Friday.

The youngsters in the Class of 2015 are still at St. Marks along with a few sub-adult cranes from previous years. They’re not typically in a rush to get back north until they reach breeding age and get serious about selecting and defending a territory.

Confirmed on migration is male 4-12 & female 3-14 (aka the Royal Couple). I had last seen these two in late January in Miller County, Georgia. We were still on migration and camped near Bainbridge when PTT hits for 3-14 indicated they had left the St. Marks area and were not terribly far north of our current location.

Satellite hits since then confirmed she (and very likely 4-12) stayed at their Miller County location at least until midday on 7 March. A subsequent hit late the same evening indicated she had flown in a northwesterly direction – logging more than 250 miles before stopping to roost in Marion County, Alabama.

The next day, it appears they departed and flew roughly 180 miles to their current location in northwest Kentucky (County name withheld until we received confirmation they have departed).

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  1. Todd Leech March 17, 2016 8:13 am

    I had the privilege to photograph Whooping Crane #16-11 in Horicon Marsh this past Sunday

  2. PattiLat March 16, 2016 7:09 pm

    Dearest Heather, Thank you so much for this information. We all check everyday to see lovely pictures and hear of the comings or goings of our beloved cranes. Can’t thank you enough for all you do.

  3. Carol Giancola March 16, 2016 10:32 am

    Beautiful picture. Thank you, Marie.

  4. CrabtowneMd March 15, 2016 7:20 pm

    What a beautiful sight. Thank you for keeping us posted.

  5. Lara Leaf March 15, 2016 3:42 pm

    Beautiful photos! Thank you for keeping us updated on the cranes!

  6. thunder March 15, 2016 2:00 pm

    Wow ~ So grateful you can keep a computer screen eye on them. Thanks for the updates and the Picture Heather!!

  7. Mindy March 15, 2016 12:05 pm

    Nice to hear the news and see such a great picture of at least 6 Whoopers together (looks like another wing tip on the right). Heather, do you have news of #8-14 Tiny Dancer?

    • Mindy March 15, 2016 1:37 pm

      Oh, my sister pointed out that only two in that picture were Whoopers. I did not look very well did I?

    • Kathy March 15, 2016 3:33 pm

      It appears the pic has 2 whoopers and I would think the rest are sandhill cranes, notice the color difference.

    • Margie Tomlinson March 15, 2016 7:47 pm

      Dear Mindy, 4 of the Cranes r Sandhills (above). The Whoopers r the 2 at the bottom of the photo. 🙂

      • Mindy March 18, 2016 12:47 am

        Yes, thanks Margie..I got too excited and it was wishful thinking!

  8. Sidney Burr March 15, 2016 12:02 pm

    They are making better time, probably covering more miles than I would driving!! How exciting to be able to follow migration progress.

  9. P. Doms March 15, 2016 11:35 am

    County name withheld until we received confirmation they have departed). Thank you OM!! Strange people with guns out there.

  10. Mollie Cook March 15, 2016 10:17 am

    Great update Heather……….glad to hear Royal Couple are still together. Thanks!!

  11. Barb March 15, 2016 9:52 am

    Thank you for the exciting news. Do any of the cranes, especially the young not breeding cranes, just stay at the refuges rather than migrate North?

    • Heather Ray March 15, 2016 10:11 am

      We have never seen this happen in the history of the project.

      • Barb March 15, 2016 10:23 am

        Heather, Will this year’s Cranes migrate together, or will they each find their own way in life?

        • Heather Ray March 15, 2016 1:13 pm

          I’m not sure. Time will tell but it would be nice if they stuck together at least until they make it to Wisconsin.

  12. Leota Hopper March 15, 2016 8:38 am

    Thank you Heather for keeping us posted on our Royal Couple, nice to see they paired off together. And 4-12 tagging along. Our class of 2015 will get brave and venture off & explore the world around them.

  13. Margie Tomlinson March 15, 2016 8:32 am

    YAY! Whoopie! Awesome! Have been waiting for this news!

  14. Bobbie (piscesbobbie) March 15, 2016 8:21 am

    Heather, thank you for the update. So cute that the Royal Couple are still together! Hoping they continue to bond so that in a couple of years they have a Little Whooper!

  15. Kat Williams March 15, 2016 6:50 am

    Thanks so much for the Royal Couple update. We’ve been wondering/worrying about them.