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Flight from Extinction: Helping Whooping Cranes Survive Presented by Dr. John B. French, Jr. USGS Public Lectures…Science in Action U.S. Department of.

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Presentation on theme: "Flight from Extinction: Helping Whooping Cranes Survive Presented by Dr. John B. French, Jr. USGS Public Lectures…Science in Action U.S. Department of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Flight from Extinction: Helping Whooping Cranes Survive Presented by Dr. John B. French, Jr. USGS Public Lectures…Science in Action U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey

2 Whooping Crane Natural History Tallest N. Am. Bird (1.5m, kg) Spectacular adult plumage; naked red crown; yellow eye Order Gruiformes, with rails, limpkins; Gruidae (15 species) Not related to herons !! (Ardeiformes)

3 Both sedentary and migratory habitat, in different populations Territorial in both nesting and winter habitats Omnivorous Distinctive courtship behavior Dancing “whoop”; Unison call – duet, coiled trachea Whooping Crane Ecology

4 Whooping Crane Habitat and Range Robert Porter Allen (1952), NAS monograph Widespread in grasslands; nesting, feeding tied to wetlands Canadian taiga to Mexican plateau Sedentary LA breeding pop’n, East coast winter range Habitats and range reduced by hunting agriculture ES listing in 1967

5 Aransas – Wood Buffalo Flock Wood Buffalo breeding grounds discovered birds in 1942, 3-4 breeding females growth ~4%, now over 200 ‘Canus’, collected eggs established captive flock Threats to AWB flock increasing

6 Total current Whooping Crane Population: n = 503* (summer 2009) 247 Wood Buffalo-Aransas migratory flock 62 breeding pairs & 22 fledged in ‘09 25 Florida “non-migratory” flock 9 Pairs; 1 fledged in ‘07 85 Eastern migratory flock (WCEP) 146 Captive flocks (PWRC, ICF, Calgary zoo…) 32 pairs (varies with the year) * differences among flocks in methods and date of counting

7 Strategy for Eastern Migratory Flock - WCEP Reintroduction: establish a new migratory route Produce & train chicks at Patuxent Fledging at Necedah NWR Lead chicks to FL behind ultra-light aircraft “release” on arrival, to winter in west-central FL

8 Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership Formed in 2000 International Whooping Crane Recovery Team United States Fish and Wildlife Service USGS: Patuxent, NW Health Center Operation Migration International Crane Foundation Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

9 Producing Chicks at Patuxent Whoopers breed at PWRC (AI), plus eggs from other flocks Incubation: artificial, Sandhill surrogates (telemetry egg) Very early husbandry: sounds of environment, learning to feed Veterinary care

10 Raising Chicks Regular exercise: walking and swimming to aid in proper growth. Chicks become familiar with wetland habitats

11 Raising Chicks Goal : ‘wild’ chicks that imprint on aircraft Costume always Recorded vocalizations Classical conditioning Socialization

12 Flight Training Camp, Necedah NWR, WI Shipped at fledging; natal territory Kept in group pens; no adults Previous year’s birds Trained to follow the aircraft in flight Costume, always partner: Operation Migration

13 Migration Begins!

14 Does Migration Training Work? Flight paths for fall 2002 flight group 2003 FALL migration south 2003 SPRING migration north

15 Imperfect Migration Training or Natural Dispersal? Goal: breeding population in central WI, need mate choices Management/relocation works, but time consuming Is it the right thing? Habitat selection: birds better than biologists Value of research: perspective on population Population modeling; monitoring plan

16 Demographic vs. Genetic Constraints on Population Recovery Chicks released / female Inbreeding Annual survival Genetic management against in-breeding risk: prevent over- representation of genetic lines (results: don’t release successful producers) Demographic management against chance catastrophes: much higher in small populations Where is the trade-off?

17 PWRC Research in Support of Whooping Crane Recovery Captive husbandry, nutrition and reproductive studies: captive behavior, Ca & caloric content of food, correlates of hatching success ( with Calgary Zoo ) Artificial insemination: improves captive production, conservation of genetic diversity, causes of infertility, use of stored semen ( with CRC Front Royal ), Management of genetic structure of captive crane populations: genetic management plan, better markers, wild bird relatedness ( with UGA Genomics Lab ) FL population model, with adaptive management decision making process: when do we stop releasing birds? EM Flock modeling: demographic v. genetic constraints; correlates of daily nest survival, decision analysis for habitat management Diseases West Nile virus: Sandhill chick mortality, whooping crane vaccinations Infectious bursal disease: 60% mortality of 2002 non-migratory releases Migration training: geese, sandhills, imprinting, blimp, IMAX !?

18 WCEP Results so far… 80+ birds: migrating adults/juvs Reproduction: ‘05 : 2 pairs with 1 egg ’06: 3 pr with eggs, twins hatched ’07: 5 pr with eggs; 1 collected ’08: 11pr with eggs; 4 collected, 3 chicks part of release group ‘09: 12 nests; 2 re-nested, and 2 chicks hatched – both died WI management plan Habitat conservation in flyway

19 Whooping Crane Recovery Excellent start to reintroductions – breeding, natural population growth are next benchmarks Operations developed from good science WCEP has worked well – necessary, challenging, many interested parties Outreach team, education component 2003 DOI Secretary’s Four C’s Award Challenges Breeding in WI Winter habitat in TX Another flock - LA Management of genetics, habitat, water resources

20 …Any Questions??

21 Passing Strange: The Secret Life of Clarence King Presented by Dr. Martha Sandweiss, Princeton University USGS “ Science in Action ” Lecture Wednesday, February 3, 7:00 – 8:00 pm


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