By Carol Jones
This week has been marked by an event of opportunity and curiosity for local birders. Late last week GCBO received a call that a Whooping Crane had been spotted with a large flock of Sandhill Cranes on the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. It is fairly easy to identify since it is a large white bird with a dark red crown and cheeks in a field of large gray birds, the Sandhill Cranes. Whooping Crane is the tallest bird species in North America. Our resident expert Dr. Felipe Chavez was out of town at a meeting. So our staff member Dr. Sue Heath headed over and sure enough she was able to find the bird. It was seen over the weekend and photos were taken. On Monday, Felipe was back in the office and he was able to identify the bird as one he had banded as a chick at the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada in the summer of 2012.
Since this bird is only a year and a half old, this is the first fall migration that it has attempted on its own. In the fall of 2012, while it was a still a juvenile bird it migrated with its family unit. It is a long journey from Canada back to Texas and while it missed the mark a little bit by ending up on the Upper Texas Coast instead of at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, it is fairly close to where it belongs.
It is needs to be with other Whooping Cranes however because they are territorial in both summer and winter, living in family groups. Newly paired cranes often locate their first territory near that of their parents. So if this young bird is not with other whoopers, it cannot establish a territory. It is certainly not near its parents at this point. It remains to be seen whether it will stay in our area for the winter or find its way back to Aransas. Many birders have gone to see it this past week!
To get additional information on Whooping Cranes as well as many other birds, you can come out to GCBO for our Holiday sale on Dec. 6 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. We have lots of field guides, natural history and general informational books on birds and the gulf coast ecosystem. We have been busy searching for fun stuff for the kids on your list so there will be new items we have not carried previously. There will be homemade goodies for all our visitors and shoppers so please plan on stopping in that Friday and enjoy some holiday spirit.
All of the staff at GCBO hope you each have a safe and birdy Thanksgiving!