Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Anschutz, "Whooping Crane Sightings, August-December 1996," from Nebraska Bird Review (December 1996) 64(4).


Based on observations of the breeding grounds during the summer of 1996, about 170 Whooping Cranes were expected to arrive at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas during the fall. The first arrival (two birds) was confirmed on 23 October. A total of 158 birds (143 adults/subadults and 15 young) were wintering at Aransas 1996-97. As of 16 January 1997, six adults and eight subadults, of the number anticipated, had not arrived at the refuge.

The first recorded dates for confirmed observations of migrating Whooping Cranes were 2 August in Canada and 22 September in the United States. The last sighting date was 4 December in Texas. Sightings were reported from Saskatchewan, Canada (38); North Dakota (6); South Dakota (2); Nebraska (6); Colorado (1); Kansas (15); Missouri (1); Oklahoma (9); and Texas (3).

The weather during September through mid-October was mild. The first Whooping Crane arrival at Aransas was associated with a cold front, which reached the Texas coast on 22 October. A storm system causing blizzard-like conditions in parts of the Dakotas on 26 October, brought 40-60 mph south winds to Kansas and Nebraska. A frontal passage brought 40-60 mph northwest winds to the central Great Plains on 29 October. On 1 November, there were 58 Whooping Cranes confirmed to be present in Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The migration progressed rapidly, and about 136 cranes arrived at Aransas between 30 October and 12 November.