Parent Reared Releases Update

Guest Author – Dr. Glenn H. Olsen, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD

I was out in Wisconsin for the initial arrival, banding, and placement of the young Whooping Cranes in pens in Wisconsin in September. Then Robert Doyle, also from Patuxent, came out for a two week rotation to help with the tracking of the birds. I returned on October 19, 2016 to continue monitoring the young birds with partners from Operation Migration and the International Crane Foundation (ICF).  Interns and Marianne Wellington from ICF had been monitoring the two young birds in Juneau County. The body of 37-16 had been found two days before I arrived, leaving 33-16 with the two adults on the territory of the adults. 

Marianne had asked me to check on 33-16’s location, as it was last seen several miles south of the territory on Tuesday during a flight by Wisconsin DNR Biologist-Pilot Bev Paulan. I headed out first to the territory of the adults and quickly found them in a harvested soybean field about a half mile from their roosting marsh, but no chick present, only about 25 sandhill cranes with them. Next I drove around to the area described by Bev, and there I located 3 more adult whooping cranes and a pair of sandhill cranes but no sight or signal from 33-16. Later that day I met with Marianne and we again searched for the chick in the general area but could not locate it. 

On Saturday we checked for the satellite location of this bird. For some reason, there had not been a satellite location for about 48 hours, but now when I looked on my map the coordinates placed the bird far to the south, in Iowa, 120 miles away! So 33-16 was the first juvenile to start to migrate. Marianne later went and visited the site and described it as a cattle pasture with a pond. We are not sure at this point if the chick is with other whooping cranes, sandhill cranes or migrated south on her own. We checked satellite locations and it appears the crane flew all 120 miles on Thursday, October 20. 

Yesterday (Tuesday, October 25), we received a signal from the transmitter on 69-16 that had been released in Dane County the week before. This bird has also now migrated, to northern Indiana to a stop-over area used by thousands of cranes each fall. So our young birds have started their southward migration. We will wait to see what happens next. We had an east wind yesterday, and still have that and rain today, but tomorrow the wind is from the northwest and again from the north on Sunday, October 30, so more cranes may migrate on those days. Stay tuned!

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  1. Richard kuhnen October 27, 2016 9:46 pm

    Quite certain my wife and I car-spotted a pair of whooping cranes along with about 40 Sandhills about 50 yards north of westbound I-90/94 and 1-2 miles east of the Tomah exit. Taller than the surrounding birds and mostly white. Possible or likely? First ever sighting if so!
    Richard Kuhnen, madison

    • Heather Ray October 28, 2016 6:41 am

      most definitely 🙂

  2. Dorothy N October 26, 2016 10:44 pm

    Cheers for the 2 young migration leaders!! I wish them success. And thanks to all of you for your persistence. It paid off!

  3. Mollie Cook October 26, 2016 4:01 pm

    Oh wow, thank you so much for this information. So interesting!