Crane Spotting

An adult crane and its offspring stand alert to a passing barge while foraging on Blackjack Peninsula, which is part of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Because of the physical size of a whooping crane, about 65 percent of its time awake is spent foraging.

Last year, 504 whooping cranes wintered at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding area. according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest survey released Wednesday.

The agency surveys an 153,950-acre area by plane every winter to come up with this estimate.

It says this estimate is comparable to the number of whooping cranes the agency estimated spent the winter of 2017 in Texas, 505.

The agency attributed the lack of population growth to the low number of chicks that fledging in the whooping cranes’ breeding grounds of northern Canada during the spring and summer of 2018.

“We’ve seen down years occur once every 10 years or so looking back at the past 70 years of survey data and don’t feel like it will negatively impact the overall positive trends we are seeing with the recovery of this flagship endangered species,” Wade Harrell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Whooping Crane Recovery coordinator, wrote in a news release on Wednesday.

Biologists plan to conduct the next survey in late January and will continue marking whooping cranes with telemetry tracking devices as part of an ongoing research project the U.S. and Canadian governments are conducting together.

Whooping cranes can live for more than 30 years in the wild. They can reproduce when they are 4 or 5 years old. They lay two eggs and usually rear only one chick.

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