Whooping Crane Update – December 2017

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month most Whooping Cranes have migrated south. A huge thank-you to the staff of Operation Migration, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the International Crane Foundation, 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 111 (51 F, 57 M, 3 U). This includes two fledged 2017 wild-hatched chicks, and the released parent-reared and costume-reared juveniles. As of 1 December, there are still 9 Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin, 6 in Illinois, 42 in Indiana, 6 in Kentucky, 2 in Tennessee, 14 in Alabama, 3 in Florida, and 1 in Louisiana. The remaining Whooping Cranes’ locations have either not been confirmed during November or they’ve left Wisconsin but haven’t been confirmed further south. See maps below.

2017 Wild-hatched chicks
W3_17 (U) was last seen with its parents (24_09 and 42_09) in Adams Co, WI on 1 Nov and by 8 Nov had made it to their wintering area in Hopkins Co, Kentucky.

W7_17 (F) was last seen with its parents (14_08 and 24_08) in Juneau Co, WI on 8 Nov. This family group is currently at their wintering area in Morgan Co, AL at Wheeler NWR.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort
19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) left Marathon Co, WI with adults 2_15 (F) and 28_05 (F) on 9 November and are currently in Jackson Co, AL.

26_17 (F) left Wisconsin on 6 November. She is currently in Gibson Co, Indiana, but we have not yet confirmed if she is with any adult Whooping Cranes or Sandhill Cranes. We suspect she may be with 11-15 (M) and 4-14 (M), since she was associating with them prior to migration and they have not yet been seen further south.

28_17 (M) was last seen in Walworth Co, WI on 10 November in the same general area as 20-15 and 69-16. He does not have a remote tracking device and has not yet been confirmed further south. However, he has not been seen again in WI and we suspect he has begun migration, likely with Sandhill Cranes.

24_17 (M) left Dodge Co, WI on 19 November, likely with Sandhill Cranes. He is currently in Jasper Co, Indiana, and was seen associating with 12-09, 16-12, and 63-15, and near 71_16.

72_17 (M) left Winnebago Co, WI on 16 November. He migrated with Sandhill Cranes, and is currently in Hendry Co, Florida.

30_17 (F) left Dodge Co, WI on 11 November and migrated to the Mississippi River in Jackson Co, Iowa. She then went south, and is currently in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

38_17 (F) was seen associating with adults 63_15 and 71_16, but she did not leave on migration with them. She is currently still in Dodge Co, WI, associating with Sandhill Cranes.

39_17 (F) is also currently still in Dodge Co, WI, associating with Sandhill Cranes.

36_17 (F) and 37_17 (F) did not migrate south with adults 29_16 (M) and 39_16 (M), but did leave their release area on 12 November. On 13 November, the remains of 37_17 were found in Juneau Co (see below). 36_17 continued south and is currently in Jasper Co, IN with Sandhill Cranes.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort
1_17 (M), 2_17 (F), 3_17 (M), 4_17 (M), 6_17 (F), 7_17 (F), and 8_17 (F) were regularly associating with two older males, 5_12 and 30_16, but did not migrate with them or with other adult Whooping Cranes or Sandhill Cranes that were around White River Marsh SWA.

On 22 November, 3_17 and 7_17 were captured and translocated to Sauk Co, WI to be released in a flock of Sandhill Cranes, in an effort to encourage migration. By the end of November, they are in Fulton Co, IL.

On 28 November, 4_17 and 6_17 were also captured and translocated to Sauk Co, WI, where they are currently with Sandhill Cranes.

The remaining juveniles in this cohort (1_17, 2_17, and 8_17) are still in central WI, either in Marquette or Green Lake Counties.

Parent-Reared 2016 Cohort
29_16 (M) and 39_16 (M) left Marathon Co, WI on 10 November and are currently at their wintering site in Dyer Co, TN.

30_16 (M) was last seen with 5_12 (M) in Green Lake Co, WI on 9 November. They are currently in Waukulla Co, FL at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge.

31_16 (M) was last seen in Winnebago Co, WI on 5 November but has likely begun migration.

33_16 (F) remained along the Mississippi River either in Clinton Co, IA or Carroll Co, IL during November.

69_16 (F) left Walworth Co, WI on 13 Nov and is currently in Morgan Co, AL, at Wheeler NWR with other adult Whooping Cranes (see below).

70_16 (M) is still in Knox County, KY.

71_16 (F) left Dodge Co, WI with 63_15 (M) on 19 November. She is now in Jasper Co, IN in the same area as 63_15, 12_09, 16_12, and 24_17.

Wisconsin: As of 1 December, the following birds are still in Wisconsin: 68-15, 38-17, 39-17, 1-17, 2-17, 4-17, 6-17, 8-17, and 14-15. There may be other birds present in the state for which we have not received reports, but most other birds have been confirmed further south.

Illinois: 9-03/3-04 have been seen at their wintering area in Wayne Co. 3-17 and 7-17 are in Fulton Co (see above). 26-17 is on the border of Illinois and Indiana in Wabash Co, IL (see above). 33-16 is in Carroll Co, IL (see above).

Indiana: Jasper Co: 36-17, 71-16, 63-15, 24-17, 12-09, 16-12, 20-15, 4-12 and 3-14. Jackson Co: 5-10/28-08, 41-09. Knox Co: 12-11/5-11, 19-14/12-05, 29-08/W18-15. Gibson Co: 19-09, 25-10. Greene Co: 18-03/36-09, 1-10/W1-06, 12-03/29-09, 4-08/34-09, 9-05/13-03, 3-11/7-11, 32-09/19-10, 38-09, W10-15, 1-04/16-07, 8-04/W3-10, 15-11 (and likely 38-08/10-09), 37-07.

Kentucky: 70-16 is in Knox Co (see above). The following birds are in Hopkins Co: 24/42-09 and W3-17, 2-04/25-09

Tennessee: 29-16/39-16 are in Dyer Co (see above).

Alabama: The following birds have been confirmed at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co: 17-11, 67-15, 69-16, 1-11/59-13, 13-02/23-10, and 14-08/24-08/W7-17. The group of four 19-17, 25-17, 2-15, and 28-05 are currently in Jackson Co. (see above).

Florida: 72-17 is currently in Hendry Co (see above). 5_12 and 30_16 are in Wakulla Co at St. Mark’s NWR.

Louisiana: 30-17 is currently in Plaquemines Parish (see above).

19_11’s remains were found in Juneau Co, WI on 16 November. Cause of death was likely predation. Mate 17_11 completed migration and is currently at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL, with other Whooping Cranes.

37_17’s remains were found in Juneau Co, WI on 13 November. Mortality was likely due to powerline collision. 36_17 continued south on migration with Sandhill Cranes (see above).

Confirmed Whooping Crane locations as of 1 December 2017.


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  1. Sue McCurdy December 2, 2017 6:12 pm

    Where is the one in S Florida?

    • Heather Ray December 3, 2017 6:02 am

      In Hendry County, FL.

      • Sue McCurdy December 3, 2017 11:55 pm

        And just what interests him or her there? I would love for one to visit us in Gainesville again.

  2. Gary Donaldson December 2, 2017 11:11 am

    Thanks for the update. This is always a spot of good news.

  3. Cheryl Murphy December 2, 2017 9:21 am

    Thanks for this detailed report Heather!

  4. Beth December 2, 2017 8:25 am

    Wow. My hat is off to you for being able to type all that Heather. My eyes crossed several times just reading it!
    Any ideas where 66-15 may be? It is interesting how behavior from last year to this year has changed. Kickapoo and 2-15 were associating together and were in walworth county for about two weeks, well into December.