VICTORIA ADVOCATE

26 Whoopers Reach Area – Specialists Expect At Least 247 Birds To Arrive This Year

Nov 11, 2009 | Victoria Advocate by J.J. Velasquez | Related Press

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AUSTWELL – More endangered whooping cranes have arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge during the weekend, a specialist for the refuge said Wednesday.

The recent arrival brings the total number of cranes to 26 – 24 adults and two chicks, refuge specialist Vicki Muller said.

Many of the birds are now in Kansas, where specialists at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge have counted 71 cranes. Previously, the highest number of whooping cranes the Kansas refuge had reported in a year was 62, Muller said.

The Kansas refuge halted hunting on its grounds in light of the birds’ arrival, according to the Associated Press. Twelve birds were spotted there late last week.

“We expect them to keep coming down,” Muller said. “They’re just super slow this year.”

The condition of the birds is yet unknown, but whooping crane coordinator Tom Stehn said their plumage appeared white and in good condition.

Last year, many of the birds arrived with disheveled plumage, Stehn said. The condition of the feathers can indicate good or poor health, he said.

Specialists at the Aransas refuge expect at least 247 cranes to arrive this year.

“Our goals and hopes are that we won’t go below 247,” Muller said, explaining that 247 is the number of birds that left the refuge earlier this year.

“Migration is very hard on them. There are lots of hazards and risks, so a lot of them don’t make it.”

During the past winter, 21 of the endangered cranes died, which made 2009 the deadliest year for the birds since 1990. That year 11 cranes died from a flock of 146.

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