Whooping Crane Numbers Break Record Fifth Year In A Row

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

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AUSTIN, Texas — Wildlife scientists report that for the fifth year in a row a record-breaking number of whooping cranes have completed their winter migration to the Coastal Bend area of Texas. So far, 257 whoopers have reached Texas, breaking the previous count of 237 whoopers present during last year’s winter, and experts predict more are on the way.

"I estimate that more than 97 percent of the flock has completed the migration so far. We know of four birds that are still in migration, so that raises the estimated flock size to 261," said National Whooping Crane Coordinator Tom Stehn.

In addition to increasing their numbers, whoopers have also expanded their range. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the primary wintering home for the cranes, but this year a record-high 82 cranes were documented on Matagorda Island, a record 13 on the Lamar Peninsula, and the 31 cranes at Welder Flats tie the previous record high there.

Whoopers have also settled on private lands such as San Jose Island and the Lamar Peninsula, and private landowners are also playing a significant role by providing flock activity updates and observations.

"We’ve passed the highest number we’ve seen since counts began in 1937 said Lee Ann Johnson Linam, TPWD wildlife biologist. "The good news is that for the last several years we’ve set a new record each year, so we’re on the right track."

Whooping cranes have been on the endangered species list since 1970, when only 56 birds survived in the wild in a flock that wintered in Texas and nested in Canada. That flock passed the 100-bird mark in 1986 and the 200-bird mark in 2004. Texas continues to play a key role in the survival and recovery of this endangered species, and today the flock that winters in Texas continues to be the only self-sustaining wild population in the world.

Although the majority of whoopers have completed the migration, conservationists are still asking the public to report any sightings of whooping cranes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at (800) 792-1112, ext. 4644 or (512) 847-9480. Sightings may also be reported through e-mail (leeann.linam@tpwd.texas.gov). Additional information about the whooping cranes and how to see them may be found on the TPWD Web site.

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