Whooping cranes have arrived, still waiting to be counted

Dec. 27, 2012 at 6:27 a.m.

The whooping cranes seem to be settling in for the winter, according to a report issued by the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

This flock, the last known naturally migrating flock of whooping cranes, is estimated to number more than 300 birds, according to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association.

The flock has been migrating between Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada since the ice age.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge employees have been conducting flyovers to estimate the size of the flock using a new counting system, but the estimated size of the flock will not be released until January, according to a release issued on Thursday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Conditions are still drier than normal at the refuge, which could result in higher salinity levels in the bays, according to the release. The birds are focused on feeding on blue crabs, a mainstay of their diet, and a controlled burn was conducted on 4,520 acres on Matagorda Island to give the whooping cranes more access to food, according to the release.



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