About a year and a half ago almost ten percent of the North American Whooping Crane population didn’t survive a period when they were in their Texas habitats for winter. About twenty-five cranes perished then. This summer in Canada, however, there was a surge in chick births, an unexpected boom with 46 chicks.
Currently the whooping cranes are in transit from Canada back to Texas for the colder winter months, where they are expected to gather with a population of 290-300. This wild Canadian population was just 16-21 in 1941, and on the verge of extinction. Since the near collapse, scientists have been very carefully studying the birds and making sure their habitat is protected.
The recent chick surge is being attributed to excellent conditions in their protected habitat in Wood Buffalo National Park. This park is the only known natural nesting site for whooping cranes in the world. (Source: suite101) Located in Alberta, it is also home to many animals such as Wood Bison.
The wild Canadian whooping crane flock migrates on their own between Canada and Texas. In 2008-2009 the population was down to 247, due to a lack of food in their Texas range. By the next year their numbers had increased to 264, and this year the count could be increased by 36. This short-term growth is a relief to scientists who study the perilously endangered birds. Of course, this growth phase depends upon there being enough for them to eat while they are wintering. In Texas they must gain weight to make the 2,400 mile journey back to Canada and be in good enough condition to produce eggs for the next generation of cranes.
The Canadian birds make the journey with various stops at points along the way to Texas, for food and rest. Biologist Lee Ann Linam said, “You’re talking about habitats and hazards along the way, so we’re really thinking about the whole Great Plains when you’re thinking about what it takes for whooping cranes to survive.” (Source: Caller.com) Private landowners have contributed to the crane conservation efforts by allowing the birds to freely use their land during the migration, and working of making it more hospitable.
Whooping cranes born in captivity have needed help in the form of small planes flying with them to make the journey to another wintering ground in Florida. Without flight assistance, they would not make the journey. Even with the assistance, some of them don’t make it and have to be driven.
Image Credit: Public Domain