North American Crane Working Group


Date of this Version


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Proceedings of the North American Crane Workshop 13: 75


2014 North American Crane Working Group. Used by permission. Proceedings may include articles not presented at Workshop.


Whooping cranes (Grus americana, WHCR) complete a full flightless molt of primary flight feathers every 2-3 years. The flightless period may represent an important component of the annual cycle; however, molt patterns in WHCR are poorly understood. WHCR undergo a flightless period following ecdysis (feather loss) making them more vulnerable to predation threats, and likely changing their habitat selection from open wetlands to areas with a higher concentration of cover. Studies of molt in wild birds can then be compared to associated habitat needs at that critical time and inform the selection of future release sites elsewhere.

selection of future release sites elsewhere. In 2011, 6 reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) WHCR were identified as molting in and around Necedah NWR. Initially, secretive behavior and/or limited movement by the birds indicated possible molt; this was followed by visual confirmation through observing a wing flap so that presence/absence of remiges could be noted. Birds confirmed to be molting were WCEP IDs 29-09, 4-08, 13-02 and mate 18-02, and 12-02 and mate 19-04. The latter pair was confirmed to be molting only through the collection of 34 (of a maximum of 40) primary feathers on the pair’s territory.