The Whoopers Are Here

Whooping Cranes Arrive at Goose Island State Park 

Staff at Goose Island State Park in Rockport announced Thursday that they’ve spotted the first whooping cranes of the season.

“These two whooping cranes are the first arrivals at the park this season, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome them back down south,” the park posted on social media. “They were spotted this morning from the bird viewing platform next to the day use area.”

In 1942, there were only 16 whooping cranes left in what was to be the last flock in the world, a small group of birds that wintered on the central Texas coast near Rockport and nested in northwestern Canada. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, this last remaining band of whooping cranes still precipitously clung to existence with numbers in the 20s and 30s. Slowly, over time, with habitat conservation and protection from shooting, numbers climbed. In 2012, the Texas-Canada flock approached 300 birds, and now whooping cranes also exist in several experimental flocks and captive breeding facilities.

While the traditional wintering grounds on and near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are well-known, biologists have much less information about locations used by whooping cranes in migration. In addition, as the whooping crane population continues to grow, whoopers are beginning to explore new wintering habitat away from traditional areas.

Texas Whooper Watch seeks the help of citizen scientists in identifying whooping crane migration stopover sites and non-traditional wintering areas, in assessing whether any hazards exist to whoopers at these sites, and in learning more about behavior and habitat use at these sites.

If you spot a whooping crane, first visit Is it a whooping crane? to double-check your identification. If you believe your ID is correct, then use iNaturalist to post observations of whooping cranes in Texas. There’s a project set up specifically for this. 

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