BIRD WATCH: Newsletters give the skinny on whooping, sand cranes

A SHORT WHILE ago, one of my favorite newsletters arrived in the mail.

This isn’t a monthly or even a bimonthly publication.

“Grus Americana” is published twice a year by the Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA). Its primary purpose is to keep members informed as to the status of the endangered whooping cranes.

The WCCA is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the conservation of whooping cranes.

When the newsletter arrives, I flip through its pages in order to learn how this bird’s current population is faring.

There are not a lot of whooping cranes in the world. The fact that the bulk of the population migrates from the gulf coast of Texas to the Northern Territories in Canada is the major factor threatening these cranes.

They head north in the spring and along with any young they may have raised, make the long journey south in the fall. Biologists working with the whoopers have attempted to establish non-migratory flocks as well as establish shorter migratory routes. There has been some success but also some failures.

A report on the Aransas (Texas)-Wood Buffalo (Northwest Territories) flock establishes that population at about 329 birds. That is the final total given for the 2015 survey.

Numbers through 2016 aren’t complete, but if the recent trend continues, that number should go up considerably. This is based on the fact that 45 fledged young were counted at Wood Buffalo last summer.

There have been many attempts to establish a migratory flock of whooping cranes within the United States. Young birds raised in captivity are adopted by adult cranes in Maryland and Wisconsin.

The hope is for the adults to lead the youngsters on a shorter southward migration journey. It is fascinating to learn how this work progresses.

Interesting films showing the methods used have been produced. To see some of this work and learn more about the work with the whooping cranes, you can visit the website

We don’t have any whooping cranes in our state, but we do have sandhill cranes, and they are also fascinating birds with interesting personalities. The last issue of another newsletter carried a reminder that the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is coming up later this month.

The “Echo” is the newsletter for the Black Hills Audubon chapter. The details on upcoming field trips not only covers local field trips but follows the bird festivals coming up throughout the state.

The sandhill crane celebration will take place March 24-26 in Othello. This is in the eastern part of the state where the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is located.

The “Potholes Reservoir” region is not only very different habitat from the western part of Washington; it is one of the most popular birding areas. The cranes will be the stars of the show, but other interesting bird species will also be seen.

The crane festival is an opportunity to become familiar with this diverse region and its wildlife. There will be organized field trips to see the cranes and other birds to be expected on these outings include burrowing owls, Western meadowlarks, rock wrens, chipping sparrows, chukars and maybe Say’s phoebe.

For more information on the festival and the Othello area, visit the website www.othellosandhillcrane


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email:

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