Whooper Watch

[stextbox id=”info”]

Recent Whooper Updates:

FALL 2016

November 17 – Total of 18 Whoopers.  4 from previous report now in northeast part of Little Salt Marsh, plus 13 (12 adults, 1 juvenile) on flats north of NE 170th St., and 1 adult on west side of Big Salt Marsh.

November 15-17 – 4 whooping cranes (3 adults, 1 juvenile) on flats north of NE 170th St.

November 13-14 – 7 whooping cranes in 2 groups (2 adults, 1 juvenile seen on flats north of NE 170th St.)(4 adults seen in southeast corner of Big Salt Marsh)

November 12 – 40 whooping cranes (34 adults, 6 juveniles) in Big Salt Marsh.  All seen flying South out of the marsh around 9:50a.m.

November 9 – 3 adults at Quivira NWR in southwest Big Salt Marsh. 6 (4 adult, 2 juvenile) whooping cranes in southeast corner of Big Salt Marsh

November 3 – 10 total (9 adults; 1 juvenile) whooping cranes in 2 groups around the Big Salt Marsh.  Seen departing by 9:40a.m.

October 28 – 6 adults at Quivira NWR North of NE 17oth St. on flats

October 24 – 2 adults at Quivira NWR on west shore of Big Salt Marsh


April 8 (Last observed Apr. 9 in a.m.) – 10 Whooping cranes observed at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Pool 1C.

April 7 – 3 adults at Quivira NWR in Big Salt Marsh

April 5 – 1 adult at Quivira NWR in Big Salt Marsh

March 29 – 2 adults at Quivira NWR in Big Salt Marsh; AND 3 Whooping cranes observed in Unit 14a

March 24 – 6 adults at Quivira NWR south of North Lake seen that morning

March 22 (Last observed Mar. 23 in a.m.) – 4 adult Whooping cranes at Quivira NWR on flats north of 170th St.

March 1 – 7 Whooping cranes observed flying with Sandhills 2 miles East of Ellinwood, KS

FALL 2015

November 14 (Last observed Nov. 15 in a.m.) – 6 Whoopers (4 adults and 2 juveniles) at Quivira NWR in Big Salt Marsh

November 14 – 3 Adults-Quivira NWR in Little Salt Marsh

November 13 (Last observed Nov. 14 in a.m.) – 6 Whoopers (5 adults and 1 juvenile) at Quvira NWR in Big Salt Marsh

November 9 (Last observed Nov. 10 at 7:40a.m.) – 4 Adults-Quivira NWR Big Salt Marsh (probably the same 4 that were at CBWA yesterday)

November 9 (Last seen flying at 11:45am 11/10)- 4 Adults-Cheyenne Bottoms Pool 1c

November 6 – 2 Adults seen at Quivira NWR North end of Little Salt Marsh

November 1 – 3 Whooping Cranes (2 adults, 1 juvenile) Seen at Quivira NWR Big Salt Marsh morning of Nov 1.

October 31 (Last observed Sun, Nov. 1) – 6 Whooping Cranes (4 adults, joined by 2 other adults) first seen evening of Oct. 31 at Quivira NWR Big Salt Marsh.  All seen morning of Nov. 1 flying

October 29 (Last observed Sat, Oct. 31) – 5 Whooping Cranes (4 adults, 1 juvenile) reported at 7:45am at Quivira NWR Big Salt Marsh.

October 16 (Last observed Sat, Oct. 24) – Two adult Whooping Cranes reported early this morning at Quivira NWR at north end of Little Salt Marsh.


The Fall Bird Migration is a neat time of year. Over the next couple weeks, chances are good we will see one of the most sought after fall migrants: WHOOPING CRANES.

Photo by Bette Hamilton

Typically, some whooping cranes will stop at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve, and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge along their Fall & Spring migrations. The end of October through the first half of November is the best time to see whooping cranes. In 2009, as many as 28 whoopers stayed at Cheyenne Bottoms for a couple weeks. In April 2010, 76 whoopers were spotted at Quivira NWR for one evening.

Whooping cranes remain one of the most endangered birds in North America. In the early 1940’s, only 16 whoopers remained. Currently there are approximately 300 whoopers in the Central Flyway flock, which is the only remaining natural, self-sustaining flock. Including captive flocks and 3 experimental flocks, there are approximately 600 total whoopers in existence. The birds that come through this area have spent their summer on their breeding grounds in northern Canada and are heading to their wintering grounds near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Corpus Christi, TX.

Whooping cranes are the tallest bird in North America, standing 5 feet tall. They also have a 7-8 foot wingspan. Adults are mostly white, with black feathers on the tip of the underside edge of the wing. They have a dark red crown on their head and a black mustache extending from their bill to the lower face. Juvenile whoopers are rusty colored, and are usually seen with their parents during migration.

Photo by Bette Hamilton

Usually, whooping cranes can be seen migrating with their gray, much more numerous cousins, sandhill cranes. And, often whooping cranes migrate in family groups, including the two parents and one or two juveniles.

The decline of whooping cranes over the years has resulted from several factors, including habitat loss and hunting, especially in the early 1900’s.

 Feel free to contact the KWEC for more information about whooping cranes. And, plan on a trip to Cheyenne Bottoms this fall to see whoopers and other migrating birds!

[stextbox id=”alert”]

When viewing whooping cranes, please respect them.  It is recommended that people stay at least 1/4 mile away from the whooping cranes.  It is also recommended that people stay in their vehicles and keep movement and noise to a minimum so as not to disturb the birds.  Never should people try to walk toward whooping cranes.


[stextbox id=”warning”]Whooping Cranes (photo courtesy of Richard and Bette Hamilton)

Many of the world’s whooping cranes migrate through central Kansas. In fact, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have designated the Cheyenne Bottoms as critical habitat for these endangered cranes. When Whooping Cranes are present, the pool where the birds are located is closed to all hunting and the goose hunting zones are closed to crane and light goose hunting. The fall migration begins in mid-September and they normally reach their wintering grounds by early December.

Check out more Whooping Crane Fun Facts on Quivira NWR’s Whooping Crane Page