EMP Whooping Crane Update

Whooping Crane Update – November 27, 2018 

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month Whooping Cranes have left Wisconsin and many have reached their wintering locations. Many birds are still on the move! A huge thank-you to the staff of 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 estimated population size is 101 (45 F, 53 M, 3 U). As of 27 November, approximately 19 Whooping Cranes are in Illinois, 33 are in Indiana, 1 may still be in Michigan, 7 are in Kentucky, 5 are in Tennessee, 11 are in Alabama, and 1 is in Georgia. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month or they have left Wisconsin but haven’t yet been confirmed further south. See maps below.

Wild-hatched birds

As of 27 November, five wild-hatched chicks are still alive, all of which have left Wisconsin with their parents.

W1_18 (F) is in Knox Co, IN with her parents.

W3_18 (F) is likely in Hopkins Co, KY with her parents but we have not yet confirmed IDs.

W5_18 (M) is still with his parents in Greene Co, IN.

W6_18 (M) is now with his parents in Lawrence Co, IL.

W10_18 (U) is with parents in Greene Co, IN. 

2018 Releases

16_11 (M), 73_18 (F), and 74_18 (M) have left Wisconsin and are currently in Jasper Co, IN.

77_18 (M) left Wisconsin with Sandhill Cranes and is currently in Lowndes Co, GA. 

2017 Wild-hatched chicks

W3_17 (F) migrated south with 11_15 (M) and is now at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

W7_17 (F) is still at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL.

Parent-Reared 2017 Cohort

19_17 (M) and 25_17 (M) migrated to Jackson Co, AL, where they wintered last year.

28_17 (M) left WI and is now in Jasper Co, IN.

24_17 (M) was in Greene Co, IN, but has left and is now in Lawrence Co, IL.

72_17 (M) left MI and is now in Jay Co, IN.

36_17 (F) migrated with females 2_15 and 28_05 from Wisconsin to Kentucky, where the remains of 36_17 were found on 21 November. The other two females are now in Meigs Co, TN. The cause of death is not yet known.

38_17 (F) migrated with 63-15 (M) to Randolph Co, IL.

39_17 (F) is in Jasper Co, IN and has been seen associating with other Whooping Cranes as well as Sandhill Cranes.

Costume-Reared 2017 Cohort

7_17 (F) migrated to Cumberland Co, IL, presumably with 4_14 (M).

3_17 (M) was last seen with 30_16 (M), 5_12 (M), and 67_15 (F) in Green Lake Co, WI. The group has not been seen in WI recently, but have not yet been confirmed further south.

4_17 (M) and 6_17 (F) are now in Alexander Co, IL.

1_17 (M), 2_17 (F) were in LaSalle Co, IL, with 10_15 (F) and 4_13 (M) but then left and are now in Marshall Co, KY. It appears they are still on the move.

8_17 was last seen in Sangamon Co, IL in May, and then showed up at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL, during November.


The carcass of 36_17 (F) was collected on 21 November in Kentucky, but the cause of death is not yet known (see above).

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  1. Joyce Bradley December 8, 2018 10:50 pm

    Saturday, December 8, 2018 my husband and I spotted two very large flocks of whooping cranes flying south over Berne, Indiana in Adams County. We first heard the strange sound of their calls and then looked up to see between 75 to possibly 150 birds flying at an extremely high altitude. We are guessing maybe 500 feet. I have a video of them on my phone.

    • Heather Ray December 9, 2018 6:30 am

      These would have been Sandhill cranes. There are two crane species in North America: Sandhills – the most plentiful, and Whooping cranes, the most rare.

  2. Rowena Morgan December 8, 2018 4:00 pm

    At 2:50 p.m. CST, about 30 or so of what appeared to be, and sounded just like whooping cranes, flew over my house in Sumner County, Tennessee. Their calling drew my attention up. They traveled on southward and were glorious to watch!

    • Heather Ray December 9, 2018 6:31 am

      These would have been Sandhill cranes.

  3. Karen December 7, 2018 3:11 pm

    Can it be that I saw a flock of about 40 whooping cranes migrating today (Dec. 7) over Indiana at about 10:30 a.m. between Indianapolis and Martinsville? I spotted a flock of large, white birds with black-tipped wings flying in a roughly V-shaped line toward the SE. I was driving at the time and couldn’t get a closer look. A beautiful sight to behold!

    • Heather Ray December 7, 2018 3:47 pm

      Very likely White pelicans or Sandhill cranes 😉

  4. Katherine December 4, 2018 8:09 pm

    You are the best people ever, and I am so sad about the demise of your operation! Where will we be able to go now to track the whoopers?

  5. Richard P Brooks November 29, 2018 9:12 am

    Thank you for the good news. 38-17 and all seven 2017 costume reared cohort are migrating. OM all crane supporters will forever be grateful for what you have done for this species and us. We will all miss these posts more than you know. Thank you.

    • Heather Ray November 29, 2018 9:32 am

      I was thrilled to see #8-17 appeared at Wheeler after not being seen since the spring! I just wish the population total would grow. It’s been sitting at 100 for years.