237 whooping cranes arrive at wildlife refuge; more expected
By By Dianna Wray
Dec. 3, 2010 at 6:03 a.m.
The return of the whooping cranes is well under way, with 237 birds back at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services whooping crane coordinator Tom Stehn said Friday that 199 adults and 38 juvenile birds, were spotted during a flyover on Wednesday.
The birds began the winter migration to the refuge in October.
Stehn and refuge biologist Brad Strobel counted the birds, finding 211 in the salt marsh habitat, 18 in the shallow open bay, five on uplands in areas rooted out by feral hogs on Matagorda Island and three on grazed pasture oak savannah uplands at Welder Flats.
The cranes are feeding heavily on blue crabs and wolf berries. Both of these food items were abundant in November, Stehn said.
There were 263 birds in the flock last year. Biologists expect 285 to 290 cranes in the flock this year.
This flock of whooping cranes has migrated between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Refuge for generations.
The birds travel solo, in couples or in small groups. They began arriving at the refuge on Oct. 16.
Of the 46 fledglings recorded last year, 38 have arrived in Aransas.
The birds will winter here, leaving to return to Canada in the spring.