WHOOPING CRANES BEGIN SPRING MIGRATION
AUSTIN--An aerial census conducted along the central portion of
the Texas coast in late March showed that the endangered whooping cranes
have begun their annual migration north. Aransas National Wildlife
Refuge biologists reported that at least 45 of the record 183 whoopers
wintering in Texas had used favorable southerly winds to begin the
journey back to their nesting grounds in northwestern Canada.
Survival during the mild winter was excellent, with no deaths of
whooping cranes recorded. Two unusual winter events were noted, with
one whooper spending at least several weeks in Uvalde County and another
whooper apparently spending the entire winter in Brazoria County near
Brazos Bend State Park.
While migration to the Texas coast last fall was slow,
presumably due to mild conditions in Canada and along the migration
route, the journey northward in spring typically occurs more quickly.
Migration studies have shown that mature whooping cranes make the
2,400-mile trip in as few as 10 days. The whoopers' migration path in
Texas will take them through central Texas, north Texas, and the Texas
The flock of whooping cranes which winters in Texas represents
the last natural flock of this species in the wild, and Texans can play
an important role in the conservation of migrating whooping cranes. In
1991, a citizen report helped apprehend an individual who shot an adult
female whooping crane migrating through Texas.
Texas Parks and Wildlife encourages the public to report
sightings of migrating whooping cranes to help biologists better
understand migration routes and patterns. To report a migrating
whooping crane sighting, call the department's toll-free number at
1-800-792-1112, menu option 5, choice 3. Whooping crane spotters are
also asked to note whether the cranes have colored bands on their legs.
Whoopers, the tallest bird in North America, are entirely white
except for a small patch of black feathers and red skin on the face and
black wing tips that are seen only in flight. During migration they
often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural
fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They usually
migrate in small family groups of 2 to 3 birds, but they may be seen
roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane.