Hard to believe , but it’s been almost a month since The Badger & the Whooping Crane last posted about the 2014 whooping crane nesting season and the hatching of chicks. Now I’m happy to report that chicks have been hatching all over the place!
They are hatching at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center where some of the incubating eggs become the chicks that will be costume-reared and trained to follow the ultralights to Florida, (see a link below to learn more about these chicks);
and at the International Crane Foundation where some of the chicks will be costume-reared and eventually released at Horicon NWR where they will learn the migration route from adult cranes (see a link below for more information);
and – partially answering the burning question of the 2014 nesting season – chicks have been hatching in the wild.
All but two of the 100 (approximately) adult cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) started life as chicks hatched from incubated eggs produced by the captive populations of whoopers at either ICF or Patuxent. The population has successfully and steadily grown to 100 birds from those sources. But now the task for the EMP is to become self-sustaining – reproducing itself. Only two adult birds in the EMP (W#1 of ’06 and W#3 of ’10) at this time have been hatched in the wild, from within the population.
So how are EMP cranes doing this year at the task of hatching chicks? Pretty well, it seems (though it is too soon to know about the ultimate survival rate of the chicks). The Badger and the Whooping Crane posted on May 14th that the first wild chick of the year had been reported, and updated that news on May 15th with a report of two more chicks.
Then on May 16, the International Crane Foundation posted what seemed amazing news to its Facebook page: “Seven wild chicks!” Here is that Facebook post:
It got even better that same day when Necedah National Wildlife Refuge posted on Facebook the news that refuge biologists had witnessed “not one, but TWO whooping crane chicks at the nest of parents 13-03 and 9-05! W1-14 and W2-14, . . .” These whooping crane parents were the first pair of cranes that had been reported with a chick earlier in the week. Here is that post:
You can follow all the news about the chicks at Patuxent that will be trained to fly with ultralights at the Field Journal of Operation Migration. Training has already begun for the just-days-old tiny whooping cranes, and the OM Field Journal includes regular posts of their progress, their personalities, and often their too-cute-for-words pictures!
Visit the International Crane Foundation’s Egg Score Card page to read updates about the eggs produced from ICF’s captive population, as well as the results of aerial surveys of the wild population. The most recent aerial survey was conducted May 28, and revealed five crane families with one chick each; 3 more families (one chick each) were not observed at all.