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Hunters asked to report whooping crane sighting in North Dakota

From the North Dakota Game and Fish Department 

-- A recent sighting of a whooping crane in Ward County serves as a reminder for hunters to be on the lookout for these endangered birds as they make their way through the state.
 
Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said one of the rare birds was recently observed in a field with sandhill cranes. “This is our first confirmed sighting of the fall,” Szymanski said.
 
Whooping cranes are in their fall migration, and sightings will increase as they make their way through North Dakota over the next several weeks, Szymanski said. Anyone seeing these birds as they move through the state is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.
 
However, Szymanski said it can be surprisingly easy for people to mistake other white birds for whooping cranes, citing look-a-likes such as snow geese, pelicans, swans and egrets. “Even sandhill cranes in some light conditions can appear very light with dark wing tips,” Szymanski said. “But the most common mistake is pelicans because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.”
 
Whoopers stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Young-of-the-year whoopers are white with scattered brown feathers. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.
 
Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location, and the birds' activity. Observers should also look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Young whooping cranes were marked during 1975-1988 with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.
 
Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office at (701) 387-4397, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's main office in Bismarck at (701) 328-6300, or to local game wardens around the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes.

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