Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Anschutz, "Whooping Crane Sightings during Spring Migration, 1994," from Nebraska Bird Review (June 1994) 62(2).


Copyright 1994, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


Between 1977 and 1988, 132 juvenile whooping cranes were color-marked on the breeding grounds; of these, 51 were accounted for during the winter of 1993-94. The 1994 spring population at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was estimated to be between 135 and 138 birds depending on the fate of three banded birds last seen in December and January. By March 31, an estimated 23 cranes had begun to migrate, and a major crane departure took place on April 1-2. On May 3 and 9, a minimum of 15 and 9 cranes, respectively, remained at Aransas, the most ever observed that late in the season. By May 16, all but three cranes had migrated.

Early sightings of family groups were reported in Texas on March 14 and in Alberta, Canada on April 9. Most of the migration sightings occurred in Nebraska, where the number of confirmed sightings (19, including about 38 different cranes) was the most ever recorded in this state, and nearly twice that in all other states combined.

The weather during April was mild and dry except for a snowstorm in central Nebraska on April 11-12, and a snowstorm in western South Dakota on April 26. The first dates for confirmed observations of migrating whooping cranes were March 14 in the United States (Texas) and April 9 in Canada (Saskatchewan). The last sighting date was June 6 in Saskatchewan. Sightings were reported from Texas (2); Oklahoma (2); Kansas (2); Nebraska (19); South Dakota (3); North Dakota (2); and Saskatchewan (17).