Cranes begin settling at Texas wintering grounds

Cranes begin settling at Texas wintering grounds
The majestic Whooping crane.Photo: Klaus Nigge

Over half of the Wood Buffalo-Aransas flock of whooping cranes has arrived on the wintering grounds in and around the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast in Texas.

“As of November 15, 2011, 12 of the 21 active radio-tagged birds had arrived on the Texas coast,” said Rhona Kindopp, ecosystem scientist at Wood Buffalo National Park. “The remaining migrating cranes are scattered between North Dakota and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.”

Twenty-four cranes from the population have been banded over the past three years with telemetry devices allowing them to be tracked periodically by satellite signal. Due to two mortalities and one malfunctioning transmitter, only 21 of the bands are actively sending data at present.

Kindopp said the team of scientists monitoring the cranes, from the Whooping Crane Trust, International Crane Foundation, US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service and Wood Buffalo, expects record numbers of cranes this year.

“Two-hundred and seventy-eight whooping cranes left Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in the spring of 2011,” she said. “With approximately 37 chicks fledged from a record 75 nests in August 2011, we expect the flock size to reach record levels of around 300 birds this winter.”

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