Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update – May 2020

W1-20 and W2-20, the year’s first wild-hatched chicks, with their parents 12-11 and 5-11 in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month, Whooping Cranes have started nesting! Due to travel and fieldwork restrictions from Covid-19, we have limited crane monitoring this month and there may be additional cranes in Wisconsin or nesting that we have not been able to detect or monitor. A huge thank you to the staff of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Departments of Natural Resources of flyway states, the International Crane Foundation, and all the volunteers who help us keep track of the cranes throughout the year. We appreciate your contribution to the recovery of the Whooping Crane Eastern Migratory Population. This report is produced by the International Crane Foundation.

Population Estimate

The current estimated population size is 83 (40 F, 40 M, 3 U). 14 of these 83 individuals are wild-hatched and the rest are captive-reared. This does not include this year’s cohort of wild-hatched chicks. To the best of our knowledge, as of May 1, at least 58 are in Wisconsin, 2 are in Michigan, and 1 in Indiana. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month. Some young birds are still moving around and are likely back in Wisconsin but have not been detected during April. See the map below.

May 2020 Easter Whooping Crane Population Map

Click here to view our interactive “Where are the Whoopers” map for more details.


As of May 1, we have at least 17 pairs nest in Wisconsin so far this spring. A few nests are due to hatch around or shortly after May 1. Completed, successful nests (hatched) are listed below in the 2020 wild-hatched cohort section.

Active nests: 1 in Sauk County, at least 5 possible in Juneau County, 1 in St. Croix County, 3 to 5 in Green Lake County, 1 in Dodge County, 1 in Marathon County

Failed nests: at least 3 in Juneau County, 1 in Marquette County

2020 Wild-hatched Cohort

Chicks listed below in bold are currently alive, as far as we know.

W1-20 (U) and W2-20 (U) hatched to parents 12-11 and 5-11 in Juneau County on April 24! Both chicks are alive as of May 1, as far as we know.

2019 Cohort

W1-19 (F) was last reported in Ford Co, IL during March.

W14-19 (F) and her parents 12-03 and 12-05 have not yet been detected in Wisconsin, but likely have returned.

W19-19 (U) also is likely back in Wisconsin, although that is not yet been confirmed.

79-19 (F) moved around Wisconsin quite a bit during April and is now in Dodge Co.

80-19 (F) returned to Wisconsin in March, but then returned to Indiana, and is now in Elkhart Co, IN. We hope she will return to Wisconsin again this spring or summer as she continues to explore new areas.

2018 Cohort

W3_18 (F) and W6_18 (M) were seen (not together) in Juneau Co, WI, during April.

W1_18 (F), W5_18 (M) and W10_18 (U) were last seen in Sullivan Co, IN during March, but are likely back in Wisconsin. Other Whooping Cranes they were traveling with have been detected in Juneau Co.

73_18 (F) was last seen in March with sibling 74_18 (M) and father 16_11 in Dodge Co. She may be moving around the state but was not seen during April.

74_18 (M) has been moving around Wisconsin very extensively during April and is currently in Dodge Co.

75_18 (M) left McLean Co, IL, and is now in Brown Co, WI.

77_18 (M) left Highlands Co, FL, and is now in Barry Co, MI.

Mortality or Long-term missing

Male 20_15 has not been seen for a year and is now considered long-term missing and is removed from the estimated population total. He was last seen in May 2019 in Juneau Co, WI, and was not detected later in 2019, nor on his normal wintering grounds in Louisiana.

Story submitted by Hillary Thompson, North America Program Crane Analyst. Click here to learn more about our work in North America.