From Birding

Lifebird #357 – Hope on 9/11

Species  Whooping Crane / Grus americana
Where Rice County, Minnesota
When September 11, 2011
Who Joann, Paul S., Sally H., Cynthia R.
Number 357

On the tenth anniversary of what was one of the darkest days of this century, we were a witness to a product of one of the more hopeful stories of the past twenty years.

Whooping CranesIn 1941 there were only 16 Whooping Cranes left in the wild1. Today, thanks to some of the most extraordinary efforts ever made by humankind on behalf of one of its fellow creatures, there are just under 400. The Eastern migratory population was estimated to be 106 individuals in 2008/09.2

Two photos in album. Click on either to see larger images.

The two birds we saw near County Road 59 in Rice County are part of the Eastern migratory population. This flock was established in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin starting in 1999 by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). Ultralight aircraft were used to teach the birds of this flock to migrate 1200 miles each year to winter in Florida. This is an amazing story and it is well-worth a visit to International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin to learn more.

It is important that these birds are left alone. They should not learn to be comfortable around humans. We stayed with our car and didn’t approach the birds (the photo above was taken with a 15x zoom lens). The birder who originally posted the location of this pair to the MnBird mailing list reported them to the ICF. The response, from Dan Tallman’s Bird Blog:

Eva Szyszkoski of the International Crane Foundation writes: “Based on the bands I could pull off of your photos, these two birds are adult breeding pair numbers 7-07 and 39-07. They are both four years old. They nested this year near the Necedah NWR but abandoned their nest on 4 May. Two eggs were collected (one infertile, one fertile but addled). They have a history of moving into Minnesota in the summer or fall every year (except for last year when they molted and were unable to fly for ~6 weeks). They will most likely begin migration south from Minnesota and will not return to Wisconsin before then. No. 7-07 was raised and released using the ultra-light release method and no. 39-07 was raised and released using the Direct Autumn Release method. They have been together for about three years now.”

A Whooping Cranes at the ICFThree years ago, I took this photo (left) of a captive Whooping Crane at the ICF.


  1. International Crane Foundation.
  2. U.S.F.W.S..

See lifebird index.