The Whooping Crane is the third most endangered bird in North America. A mere average of 380 birds remain alive in the wild today. About a hundred are reintroduced birds that migrate between Wisconsin and Alabama or Florida. The majority are a natural flock that summers in Canada and winters on the coast of Texas.
The most malevolent killer of these stately, five-foot tall, white birds with their seven-foot wingspan, are not bobcats, alligators, or bears, but humans with guns. The birds aren’t predators, they pose no harm to domestic animals or farm crops. The birds spend most of their time foraging in wetlands and the edges of fields. In Kentucky, two more Whooping Cranes have been murdered.
Historically they were hunted for their for their brilliant white feathers. Today they’re killed for sport or plain ass stupidity. In 1950 there were less than 50 alive in the entire United States. Sixty-four years later not many more are around. They don’t breed every year like most birds. They raise their young for the first year. They mate for life. The environment today presents new dangers. Power lines, pesticides and poisons, loss of habitat, danger from oil spills and water shortages. The easier access of man to smaller territories inhabited by Whooping Cranes.
When cranes fly, they’ll catch a thermal and rise like a spirit into the heavens, gone from view within the tenth of a second used to measure who wins a race. Those lucky few that watch the near illusion are left standing in awe, wondering if they’ve actually seen a Whooping Crane or an miracle.
I’ve watched a Whooping Crane glide along the tree tops, following the path of a small creek through a protected wetland. Creeping along a highway shoulder at 35 miles an hour, I saw that brilliant white bird from more than a mile in the distance. It disappeared when it came to ground after the third mile. Although I turned down the first road to the left, I had no luck finding it, although, its distinctive whoop could be heard from the marsh.
Listen to the unique call of two Texas Whooping Cranes …
Approximately mid-March in Wisconsin, I open the bedroom and porch windows. I do it so I can listen for the sound of birds returning north. Canada Geese arrive first, followed by the mated pair of Sandhill Cranes that return to the bog behind our home. When the neighborhood hooking settles down, it’s time to separate the Sandhills from the possible Whooping Cranes. They might arrive separately, or they might arrive together. It depends. These are still young birds, they haven’t established permanent territories or picked out lifetime mates.
A few years ago, a young female Whooper broke ranks during the Florida UltraLite migration and flew off with a flock of Sandhill Cranes. When she returned, she was leading the flock, was the loudest, and the Sandhill Cranes were following her. I didn’t see them. We live between a hill and the Fox River they were navigating over. I certainly heard them.
That same year, a single bird flew over and disappeared for the entire summer. Again, I heard him but couldn’t see him. When I heard he was missing, i suspected where he might be, but there was no way I could get in there. Eventually, in late summer, early autumn, he was located by an air search in the expected area. He’s well and with the flock in Alabama this winter.
Not so with the couple of birds that decided Kentucky would be a good place to mate and raise a family. They nested and produced their first egg this year. It was the first egg from the White River Marsh birds. It wasn’t viable, but it was a hopeful sign. Our birds had learned well, they were acting like wild birds, no attachment to humans, doing what they were trained to do. Go, leave, live naturally in the wetlands of the eastern fly-way.
In late November, someone decided it would be fun to shoot two Whooping Cranes wintering in Kentucky. Our magnificent Wisconsin birds have been murdered. Please help us find the killer or killers of our young birds.
Living twenty miles from Operation Migration’s Whooping Crane summer site, makes the killing of these birds, very personal We must find this person, or persons and turn them over for investigation and prosecution. This was a joy killing, a criminal offence covered by the Federal Endangered Species Act. The reward recently doubled to $15,000. Someone needs a good ass whooping for what they’ve done. Please share this blog and pass the word along.
The Today Show updated and rebroadcast their recent feature on Operation Migration and the Wisconsin to Florida flock to include the killing and reward for our two birds.
Watch the NBC Today Show visit Operation Migration in Wisconsin…
Read the Kentucky Courier Journal about the national reward…
Please get the word out and HELP. Thank You.