The first migrating whooping crane has been spotted in late October at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, near Stafford in central Kansas.
Whooping cranes, an endangered species, are North America’s tallest bird, some reaching 5 feet in height when standing erect.
A rare and fantastic sight, this whooping crane is part of the only sustaining wild population, currently estimated at 250 birds.
Whooping cranes from this population will fly through Kansas in upcoming weeks, making their way to wintering grounds at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Past records indicate that most whooping cranes will pass through Kansas, usually travelling in small family groups. However, on Nov. 9, 2012, 18 whoopers were spotted together at Quivira as they migrated south from their Canadian nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories.
As part of a cooperative monitoring program supervised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism encourages anyone who has spotted a whooper to contact a local natural resource officer.
Sighting information can be used to alert managers of key areas along the flyway — such as Quivira and Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in central Kansas — and to provide sighting records for the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan and for whooping crane research in the U.S. and Canada.
More information on the whooping crane project is available at www.fws.gov/midwest/whoopingcrane.
--From the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism