It’s UPdate time!

Whooping Crane Update – July 5, 2016

Nesting season is complete for 2016. So far 23 chicks have hatched, and as of 1 July, 6 chicks are still alive. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, and all of the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the whooping crane eastern migratory population.

Population Estimate

The current maximum population size is 101 (48 Females, 51 Males & 2 Unknown). This total does not include wild-hatched chicks from 2016. As of 1 July, at least 89 Whooping Cranes have been confirmed in Wisconsin, 1 is currently in Michigan, and 6 are in Illinois. The remaining 5 birds have not been confirmed in WI yet this spring. See map below.

2015 Wild Hatched Chicks

The bird we presume is W10-15, based on size and lack of bands, has been seen regularly in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

The other un-banded bird, W18-15, has been hanging out in Monroe Co, WI with an adult male, 16-04.

Parent-Reared 2015 Cohort

14-15 (F) has been moving between Jefferson and Dane Counties, WI.

20-15 (M) has been in Walworth Co, WI for most of the month of June.

Direct Autumn Release 2015 Cohort

61-15 (F), 62-15 (M), 63-15 (M), and 67-15 (F) spent all of June at their wintering grounds in Randolph Co. IL. They are currently still in IL.

65-15 (F) has still been with 27-14 (F) in Marathon Co, WI.

66-15 (F) completed migration on 31 May and is currently in Racine Co, WI.

68-15 (F) has been seen in Dunn Co, WI fairly consistently throughout June.

64-15 (F) was seen leaving Horicon NWR last fall with a large group of Sandhill cranes and has not been reported at a winter location nor in WI this spring.

Aircraft-Guided 2015 Cohort

1-15 (F) has remained in Rock Co, WI throughout June.

6-15 (F), 8-15 (F), 10-15 (F), and 11-15 (M) were in Winnebago Co, WI in early June. They then flew up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back to Wisconsin, where this foursome split up. 6-15 is currently in Winnebago Co, 8-15 is in Calumet Co, and 10-15 and 11-15 are together in LaSalle Co, IL.

2-15 (F) went south to McHenry Co, IL in early June, but has returned to Wisconsin and is currently in Walworth Co.


There have been a total of 46 nests by 29 different pairs. Seven* nests had eggs removed as part of the re-nesting experiment, 2 nests were incubated past full term, 23 chicks have hatched from 16 nests, and the remaining nests failed. There are 6 chicks known to be alive at the time of this update. (* corrected from last update.) Chicks in bold are currently alive.

W1-16, W2-16 (parents 13-03 and 9-05 in Juneau Co) are no longer alive.

W3-16 was first seen 3 May with parents 12-02 and 4-11 in Wood Co, WI. Male 12-02 was found dead (see below), but W3-16 and Female 4-11 are still alive.

W4-16 (parents 12-11 and 5-11 in Juneau Co, WI) is no longer alive.

W5-16 (parents 3-11 and 7-11 in Adams Co) is no longer alive.

W6-16 (parents 1-11 and 59-13 in St. Croix Co) is no longer alive.

W7-16 and W8-16 hatched 24, 25 May respectively to parents 29-09 and 12-03 in Juneau Co. W8-16 was last seen 7 June and W7-16 is with parents on territory.

W9-16 and W10-16 were first seen 26, 28 May respectively with parents 1-04 and 8-05 in Juneau Co. W10 was last seen 2 June and W9 is with parents on territory.

W11-16 and W12-16 were first seen 27, 29 May with parents 11-02 and 15-09 in Juneau Co. W11 was likely predated on 17 June and W12 is with parents on territory.

W13-16 and W14-16 were first seen 28, 30 May with parents 9-03 and 3-04 in Juneau Co. Neither of these chicks are still alive.

W15-16 hatched 28 May to parents 18-03 and 36-09 in Juneau Co. W15 is no longer alive.

W16-16 and W17-16 were first seen 2 and 5 June respectively with parents W1-06 and 1-10 in Juneau Co. Neither of these chicks are still alive.

W18-16 hatched 5 June to parents 16-02 and 16-07 in Juneau Co and is no longer alive.

W19-16 hatched 5 June to parents 2-04 and 25-09 in Juneau Co.

W20-16 hatched 5 June to parents 18-09 and 23-10 in Juneau Co.

W21-16 hatched 7 June to parents 4-08 and 34-09 in Juneau Co and is no longer alive.

W22-16 hatched 10 June to parents 27-06 and 26-09 in Juneau Co and is no longer alive.

W23-16 hatched 28 June to parents 24-09 and 42-09 in Adams Co and is no longer alive.



12-02 (M) was found dead on 2 June in Wood Co, WI. There were no outward signs of injury or predation. Initial results from the necropsy indicate the cause of death is potentially a bacterial infection. His mate (4-11) and chick (W3-16) are currently still on territory.


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  1. Dorothy N July 7, 2016 1:09 pm

    Does anyone have a graph of the nesting, hatching, and survival rates over the years? Is this year unusual in what seems like a low chick survival rate?? They are still so vulnerable to predation at this young age. I am with Barb in her disappointment over the lack of growth of the eastern flock. Where is the government when you need it??

  2. Barb July 6, 2016 2:39 pm

    I have been mulling this report, too, Pat, trying to contain my anger over what the EGO of our government can and is doing to a bird whose numbers cannot be sustained without human intervention. And now in this afternoon’s post we’re down to 4 chicks. By week’s end, what?… nothing to show for this year’s breeding season. We’re not even giving these chicks a fighting chance for survival. Is this how “Officials” in the different government agencies go about saving a species that is on the brink of extinction???? They ought to be ashamed of themselves and some brave soul in the government must stand up and be a voice for these beautiful birds. This is really outrageous. I am in tears over the utter lack of responsibility and respect shown to one of our National Treasures. Is there no one who will help them survive?

  3. Pat (ffmn) July 6, 2016 10:35 am

    I am stunned that so few chicks survived out of the sixteen.!! This does not bode well for their survival, (at this point in time) and hopefully measures and trials that the WC organizations, (OM, DNR, etc) will be able to change this percentage for the better in the near future. God bless them all .

  4. CrabtowneMd July 6, 2016 8:03 am

    Thank you for the detailed update. Hoping and praying that all of the remaining chicks survive to migrate and mate.