Whooping crane flock size estimate to be released soon

Jan. 10, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 10, 2013 at 7:11 p.m.

The whooping cranes are continuing their winter break on the Texas coast.

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.

Generations of the flock have been migrating between Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada since the ice age.

Wade Harrell, whooping crane recovery coordinator, has been conducting flyovers of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to estimate the size of the flock, using a new counting system. The estimated number of birds in this year's flock should be released at the end of January, Harrell said.

Conditions in the area are dry, according to a release issued Thursday, but it said storms moving in should bring more rainfall and subsequently make the bays less salty.

Because of colder temperatures, the blue crab and wolfberries that the cranes feed on have been less abundant, causing the cranes to transition to other late-winter food sources, the release said. Refuge staff are conducting a prescribed burn of between 8,000 and 10,000 acres to give the whoopers other food sources.



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