Posted 28 May 2003
The e:mail below from Brian Johns is an update on the whooping cranes
currently nesting in Canada.  The news is  excellent.  The previous high
for number of nests found was 52 in the summer of 2001.  This year, 60
pairs are nesting.

Tom Stehn

Subject: Wood Buffalo Whooping Cranes                      
Lea and I have just completed 25 hours of fixed wing surveys and another 10 hours of helicopter surveys over the whooping crane breeding area in Wood Buffalo National Park and surrounding area. In spite of a mid-May snow storm that dumped 20 centimetres of snow on Fort Smith and the eastern edge of the nesting area, we discovered a new record number of nests.  As of Sunday May 25 we had located 60 nesting pairs and have seen another 10 pairs of birds on the breeding grounds, plus a number of single birds. Of the 60 nesting pairs, 8 are new and nesting for the first time, the 10 non-nesting pairs are made up of 4 pairs that bred in 2002 plus 6 new pairs. We were fortunate to also document that a pair that we had thought was lost (Lobstick pair) are actually alive and well. Apparently a new pair moved into their marsh last summer and there was confusion as to who we were seeing when we searched the area. This year the old established pair is back on their territory near the northern edge of the Lobstick marsh and a new pair is occupying a territory at the southern edge of the marsh.

Habitat conditions throughout the nesting area appear near normal. The water levels in the ponds and creeks during the 2000-2002 period were above normal, however production of crane young was lower than average, reflecting the low productivity period that is typically experienced around the turn of each new decade. Productivity of crane chicks and survival of adults is usually greater during the middle of each decade and since we are moving into that portion of the 10-year cycle, it is anticipated that chick survival will be average or higher than average over the next 3-5 years.

I will be returning to Wood Buffalo on June 9. At that time Tom Stehn and Jim Bredy will join me for the hatching success surveys. Stay tuned for those results. 

Wildlife Biologist
Canadian Wildlife Service