Date of this Version
Avian Conservation and Ecology 14(1): 6 http://www.ace-eco.org/vol14/iss1/art6/
Available stopover habitats with quality foraging opportunities are essential for migrating waterbirds, including Whooping Crane (Grus americana). Several studies have evaluated habitats used by Whooping Crane for roosting throughout its migration corridor; however, habitats associated with foraging and other diurnal activities have received less attention. We used data collected from 42 Whooping Crane individuals that included 2169 diurnal use locations within 395 stopover sites evaluated during spring 2013 to fall 2015 to assess diurnal habitat selection throughout the U.S. portion of the migration corridor. We found that Whooping Crane selected wetland land-cover types (i.e., open water, riverine, and semipermanent wetlands) and lowland grasslands for diurnal activities over all other land-cover types that we evaluated, including croplands. Whooping Crane generally avoided roads, and avoidance varied based on land-cover class. There has been considerable alteration and destruction of natural wetlands and rivers that serve as roosting and foraging sites for migrating Whooping Crane. Given recent droughts and the likelihood of future landscape changes within the migration corridor, directing conservation efforts toward protecting and enhancing wetland stopover areas may prove critical for continued growth of the last remaining wild population of Whooping Crane. Future studies of this Whooping Crane population should focus on specific wetland complexes and riverine sites throughout the migration corridor to identify precise management actions that could be taken to enhance and protect these imperilled land-cover types.
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