Whooping cranes beginning fall journey to Texas
Endangered whooping cranes have begun their annual 2,400-mile fall migration from Canada to Texas. As the rare birds approach the Lone State, a citizen science initiative is inviting Texas residents and visitors to report “whooper” sightings.
Texas Whooper Watch is a volunteer monitoring program that is a part of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Texas Nature Trackers program. The program was developed to help the agency learn more about whooping cranes and their winter habitats in Texas.
According to TPWD, since beginning the cranes’ slow recovery from a low of 16 birds in the 1940s, the birds have wintered on the Texas coast on and near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Recently though, several groups of whooping cranes expanded their wintering areas to include other coastal areas and some inland sites in Central Texas. This year, some of the whooping cranes from an experimental flock in Louisiana spent most of the summer months in Texas, and Whooper Watch volunteers were able to provide valuable information to TPWD, Louisiana Game and Fish and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the birds.
This year biologists expect whooping cranes to start arriving in Texas in late October or early November. Texas Whooper Watch will also help improve the accuracy of surveys on the wintering grounds. The birds usually follow a migratory path through North and Central Texas that includes cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin and Victoria. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night.
Citizens can help by reporting sightings of whooping cranes and by preventing disturbance of cranes when they remain overnight at roosting and feeding locations, according to TPWD. Sightings can be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.389.TXWW (8999). TPWD asks observers especially to note whether the cranes have colored leg bands on their legs. Additional information, including photos of whooping crane look-alike species, can be found at tpwd.texas.gov/whoopingcranes and whoopingcrane.com/report-a-sighting .
Read the full TPWD news release for more information on the birds and how to volunteer with the watch.