Nature

Whooping Crane Late Migration Means Hunters Need To Be Alert

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The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging hunters to be on the lookout for the endangered whooping crane this hunting season.  The whooping cranes are starting to arrive on their wintering grounds along the Texas coast. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials want to be sure that sportsmen don’t mistake this endangered species for other waterfowl.

Know a ‘Whooper’ When You See One

flying whooping cranes

Photo: Flickr/Diana Robinson

The late migration means whooping cranes are showing up in Texas just as waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting seasons get underway. It is vitally important for sportsmen to review the crane and waterfowl identification guide in the Texas Waterfowl Digest and familiarize themselves with the identifying characteristics of both hunted and protected migratory bird species.

With Hurricane Harvey’s impacts to whooping crane wintering habitat still not fully understood, it is possible that whooping cranes may use “non-traditional” habitat and be in places that the public does not normally expect to see them. So, it is more important than ever to be alert to the presence of this iconic endangered species and report them to Texas Whooper Watch.

North America’s Tallest Bird

whooping crane

Photo: Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Standing at nearly five feet tall, whooping cranes are North America’s tallest bird and each year the flock follows a migratory path from nesting grounds in Woods Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, to primary wintering range on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell, Texas. This trek takes the birds through North and Central Texas and traverses cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Dallas, Waco, Austin, and Victoria.

A Record Population in 2016

whooping cranes

Photo: Facebook/USFWSSouthwest

According to TPWD, last year, the whooping crane population was a record 431 birds, compared to the all-time low of just 15 birds that existed in 1941. The public can help track whooping cranes by reporting sightings to TPWD’s Whooper Watch, a citizen-science based reporting system to track whooping crane migration and wintering locations throughout Texas. More information about Whooper Watch, including instructions for reporting sightings, can be found online at www.inaturalist.org/projects/texas-whooper-watch and by downloading the iNaturalist mobile app. These observations help biologists identify new migration and wintering locations and their associated habitats.

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