Texas Parks & Wildlife Reports Late Whooping Crane migration over DFW
Whoop, there it is!
Whooping Cranes in Texas are considered a national treasure. These majestic high flying birds have been on the endangered species list since 1970. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife “by the late 1930’s there were only about 18 Whooping Cranes still in existence”. By 1992 due to conservation efforts the population grew to around 112 and then 173 by 2002. 2015 boasted a healthy population of around 329 Whooping Cranes.
This year the Whooping Cranes are migrating later than normal. The late start means Whoopers will be flying during some open waterfowl hunting seasons when they usually aren’t and that can be tricky to novice bird hunters. The United States Fish & Wildlife Services in conjunction with Texas Parks & Wildlife are working diligently to get the word out to bird hunters to be extra careful this season when identifying waterfowl. According to TPWD “The late migration could mean that whooping cranes will be showing up in Texas as waterfowl and Sandhill Crane hunting seasons get under way across the state. It is vitally important for sportsmen to review the crane and waterfowl identification guides”.( I’ve included this guide in the sources section below).
The Whooping Crane Migration in the fall usually starts around September and Whooping Cranes (or Whoopers, as birders will say) will fly 2,500 miles right over the DFW area heading down from Canada to their breeding grounds in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, Tx. The Spring Migration north to Canada happens late March/Early April. In the wild, a Whooping Crane can live up to 24 years old.
There are a few other birds that can look very similar to a Whooping Crane in flight and if you’re not careful you could easily misidentify one. The chart below shows a few examples of birds commonly incorrectly identified as Whooping Cranes. The most common to see and misidentify are the Snow Goose, Sandhill Cranes, and Egret due to either similar shape or color. If you would like to assist in helping in the conservation effort for these birds, 1 great way is to report a sightings here: Texas Nature Trackers: Texas Whooper Watch page.
Whooping Cranes & Breeding:
Whooping Cranes mate for life. A male and female whooping Crane will share duties watching over 1 or 2 offspring. In the Spring you will see or hear dispalys of “Courtship” from these birds as they prepare to migrate to their breeding grounds on the Texas coast. This is why in the wild you see Whooping Cranes in pairs.