The whoopers return, slowly

Nov. 8, 2012 at 5:08 a.m.
Updated Nov. 9, 2012 at 5:09 a.m.

The whoopers have returned.

After a long summer, the first whooping cranes have arrived at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

At the end of October, refuge biologists spotted the first bird, an adult, feeding in the Blackjack peninsula, according to a release issued by the refuge.

The flock has made this trek of more than 2,400 miles for thousands of years, migrating between the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada. This flock is made up of descendants of the 15 birds found wintering in the refuge in 1941.

Biologists have been tracking the whooping cranes through GPS. Though one crane arrived on the Texas coast on Oct. 18, according to GPS, the rest of the birds were reported to be near South Dakota awaiting favorable migration conditions, according to the refuge release. Biologists predicted the birds will take advantage of strong north winds associated with cold fronts to continue their migration.

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association reports that the flock has swelled to 300 birds counted at the Wood Buffalo National Park nesting grounds in Canada. This year, the flock has 34 juvenile birds, including two sets of twins, according to a release issued by the association.

The rest of the flock is expected to arrive at their winter nesting grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in late November.



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