North American Crane Working Group


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Tacha, M., A. Bishop, and J. Brei. Development of the whooping crane tracking project geographic information system. In: Hartup, Barry K., ed., Proceedings of the Eleventh North American Crane Workshop, Sep 23-27, 2008, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (Baraboo, WI: North American Crane Working Group, 2010), pp. 98-104.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


The highest losses in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population occur during migration. Conservation and recovery of the endangered whooping crane requires understanding of migration patterns to identify important stopover areas and potential sources of mortality or disturbance. We converted the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project database, containing more than 3 decades of data on whooping crane sightings, to a geographic information system (GIS) to allow coarse scale spatial analyses of whooping crane migration patterns in the United States portion of the Central Flyway. At this writing, the geodatabase contains point data for 1,981 confirmed whooping crane sightings through the spring migration of 2008. Limitations and appropriate uses of the sighting point data are discussed. We compared the distribution of confirmed whooping crane sightings using a flyway-wide analysis and state-specific analyses. State-specific analyses showed substantial differences in distribution of whooping crane sightings between states, illustrating potential differences in habitat availability between states. However, differences in whooping crane distribution between states are confounded to an undeterminable degree by observer bias, illustrating the need for information on whooping crane migration patterns that is less dependent on the distribution of observers qualified to confirm whooping crane presence.