It’s very difficult not to anthropomorphize these cranes… or any animal one has the pleasure of working with, I suppose.
Anyone with an interest in whooping cranes has heard that they possess a virtuous quality – that is – they mate for life. Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but they don’t. Oh sure, some very likely do but others, well, not so much.
Take male 4-13. He spent the entire summer and most of the fall of last year with female 7-14 in Marquette County, WI. For all intents and purposes, they seemed a bonded pair. So much so that they were the target pair to release parent reared crane colts 31 & 38-16 with. For two weeks, Jo-Anne and I watched this foursome during the day.
They foraged together and flew short distances together but when it came time to head off to roost, the two youngsters just didn’t have the flight ability to follow their alloparents and stayed behind in an ag field. Each day, we held our breath as we approached that field.
Then on 30 September, only the adult male #4-13 appeared. Female 7-14 didn’t show up with him. I knew this wasn’t a good sign and that something must’ve happened to her. The male spent a couple of hours with the two youngsters before flying off.
The next day he appeared, albeit later than normal and he again only stayed a couple of hours. Later that day, Joe called to say he had spotted him at White River Marsh in neighboring Green Lake County. It seems he was near the newly formed pair of male 5-12 and female 8-14.
The next day, while flying a survey in the area, Bev Paulan watched an aerial pursuit with 4-13 chasing 5-12 from the area. The victor, number 4-13 won female 8-14 and 5-12 flew a couple of counties south to lick his wounds. Imagine how awkward it was when 5-12 showed up at St. Marks NWR in Florida only to find 4-13 and 8-14 already there?!
Fast forward to mid-March when the pair left St. Marks to head back to Wisconsin. Sadly, female 8-14 met her fate in Alabama a few miles from our former migration stop in Lowndes County. The male, alone again, returned to White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. For those keeping score, this was the second mate he has lost.
Last Wednesday, Bev Paulan flew a survey and saw 4-13 with another new female! He sure has a way with the ladies and has now successfully wooed 10-15* from 11-15. Before you get too sad for 11-15, he is now in the company of parent reared juvenile male 30-16…
Tom Schultz saw the two of them foraging near White River Marsh over the weekend and sent along some photos to share with you.