Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Staff Contacts | Affiliates | Home RSS

Whooping crane makes rare appearance in U.P.

May 1, 2009
By John Pepin

TRAUNIK - Alger County was the site of a rare bird sighting this week when an endangered whooping crane appeared off a dirt road near a corn field, about two miles north of Traunik.

Initial reports from those spotting the bird thought it was an albino sandhill crane. The whooping crane was seen with the grayish or rusty brown-colored sandhill cranes. Whooping cranes are distinctively white.

The crane, known to researchers as No. 2705, is a female hatched in captivity at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin in spring 2005. In autumn that year, the bird was fitted with radio transmitters and legs bands with a distinct color pattern, allowing for positive identification.

Not only was the sighting unusual for local birdwatchers, but it was also interesting for researchers at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis.

"We've never had a bird there before. It's a little bit puzzling," said Sara Zimorski, co-chair of the whooping crane tracking team. "It's completely new to us too, so we're not sure what she's going to do."

In late March, the same whooping crane was found in northern Wisconsin, much farther north than she'd gone before. The crane migrates to Tennessee each winter.

In 2001, a well-publicized scientific effort was undertaken at the refuge to teach whooping cranes to migrate to Florida, following ultra-lite aircraft. The cranes hatched in captivity are raised by humans wearing costumes to look like cranes.

The female whooping crane seen in Alger County was part of a newer program called "direct autumn release" that was begun in 2005.

"Those birds learn to migrate not with aircraft, but with older whooping cranes and sandhill cranes," Zimorski said.

Zimorski said this whooping crane may decide to spend the summer in the U.P., but would likely leave the way she got here - following sandhill cranes, back to Wisconsin before winter.

Biologists estimate that there were between 700 and 1,400 whooping cranes alive in 1865. Their numbers dropped rapidly, however, and by 1890 the whooping crane had disappeared from the heart of its breeding range in the north central United States, due to unregulated hunting and loss of habitat.

Prior to the introduced population at the Necedah refuge, the birds were only hanging on to a tenuous existence at the in Texas at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Because the whooping crane is an endangered species, if you do see No. 2705, researchers recommend not approaching closer than 600 feet. In the wild, cranes can live to be 20 to 30 years old.

For more information on cranes, visit the International Crane Foundation Web site at:



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web