The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has completed analysis of aerial surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population, the only surviving wild population of whooping cranes in the world.
Preliminary survey data indicated 329 whooping cranes, including 38 juveniles, in the primary survey area (approximately 153,200 acres) centered on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell, Texas. At least nine birds were noted outside the primary survey area. The survey shows an upward trend in whooping crane abundance over the last five years, according to USFWS. Last year, 308 whooping cranes were estimated in the primary survey area.
Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America and are highly endangered. Cranes can survive more than 25 years in the wild. Adults generally reach reproductive age at four or five years, and then lay two eggs, usually rearing only one chick.
“This is the highest survey estimate ever documented for this population of whooping cranes,” said Wade Harrell, USFWS Whooping Crane Recovery coordinator. “We are thrilled to see that these birds continue to increase in number after being so close to extinction only 75 years ago.”