The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have captured a hybrid crane chick, referred to as a ‘Whoophill,’ in eastern Wisconsin and will place the chick in captivity. Whoophills are a result of a successful pairing between a Whooping crane and a Sandhill crane. This young hybrid was first noticed at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County, Wisconsin in late May.
Leaving the hybrid Whoophill on the landscape does nothing to supplement the Eastern Migratory Whooping Crane Population or further recovery of the species. While we are not yet certain, there is a high probability that this hybrid is sterile. Leaving it in the Eastern Population could result in a future pairing with another Whooping crane, which would not result in offspring, and could thus effectively “remove” another Whooping crane from the breeding population.
We have learned that the male Whooping crane, no. 16-11, is a vigilant father and has helped his Sandhill mate protect the young chick from predation. Researchers are hopeful he can use his parenting skills in the future with a suitable Whooping crane mate.
This young hybrid crane was captured this morning and is being transferred to the Milwaukee County Zoo where it will be housed temporarily before being moved to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, which has agreed to care for it in their captive facility in Maryland.
To increase the chance that the male whooping crane will help build his species’ population in the future, WCEP has decided to attempt to break up the pair. It may involve the male being captured and temporarily placed in captivity near other free-ranging Whooping cranes if the logistics can be worked out. Final decision on the best method and timing to attempt to break up the pair have not been decided. If captured, WCEP will place a new radio transmitter on the male, which will allow us to effectively monitor his whereabouts over the coming winter/spring.