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Whooping Cranes – Kansas Wetlands Education Center

Whooping Cranes

Photo by Bette Hamilton

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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.  This morning, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge staff reported a single whooping crane spotted south of the QNWR headquarters.Sweden Oakley sunglasses

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 2 experimental flocks, there are approximately 535 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.  Czech Oakley sunglasses

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.nike air max Reduced

Typically, whooping cranes will stop at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira along their Fall migration.  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.

Photo by Bette Hamilton

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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.nike air max moto

The KWEC will post whooping crane sightings on our website as they become available.  Also, as whooping cranes are present at Cheyenne Bottoms, we will have staff available to help you locate them.  When available, KWEC staff will be available near the location of the whoopers with binoculars, spotting scopes, and whooping crane information for visitors.

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!

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About Curtis Wolf

Curtis Wolf is the site manager at Ft. Hays State University's Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) at Cheyenne Bottoms. Curtis received a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a Master of Science degree in Biology at FHSU, studying freshwater mussels. Before taking the job at the KWEC, Curtis was a biology instructor at Barton County Community College in Great Bend.

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