Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update – July 2020

Whooping Crane adult 12-05 with chick W14-20 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month, Whooping Crane chicks have been getting big! 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. View near real-time locations of Whooping Cranes in this population.

Population Estimate

The current estimated population size is 82 (39 F, 40 M, 3 U). Thirteen 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 July 1, at least 68 Whooping Cranes are in Wisconsin, at least two are in Michigan and one in Illinois. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month.


As of July 1, we have had at least 21 pairs nesting in Wisconsin so far this year, three of which have re-nested. Completed, successful nests (hatched) are listed below in the 2020 wild-hatched cohort section.

Active re-nests: One in Juneau County due to hatch early July.

Failed nests (since the last update): One suspected re-nest in Green Lake county was confirmed to not be a nest, just a bird sitting on a mound.

2020 Wild-hatched Cohort

Chicks listed below in bold are currently alive, as far as we know. So far at least 17 chicks have hatched and up to 10 are still alive.

W1-20 (U) and W2-20 (U) hatched to parents 12-11 and 5-11 in Juneau County in April. Both chicks were banded in June, and are alive as of July 1 as far as we know. These two will fledge mid-July.

W3-20 (U) hatched to parents 11-15 and 42-09 in Adams County at the end of April, was banded in June and is still alive as of July 1. W3-20 will also fledge mid-July.

W4-20 (U) hatched around May 3 in Sauk County to a trio of parents, 6-17, 4-17 and 24-17. 4-17 and 24-17 are raising the chick together, 6-17 is still around, but we do not know which adults are W4-20’s biological parents. W4-20 disappeared at the end of June.

W5-20 (U) hatched on May 8 to parents 10-15 and 4-13 in Green Lake County and was not seen with parents in June.

W9-20 (U) and W10-20 (U) hatched around May 13 to parents 1-11 and 59-13 in St. Croix County. The parents were seen without chicks during June.

W11-20 (U) hatched around May 15 to parents 18-03 and 36-09 in Juneau County and is still alive as of 1 July.

W12-20 (U) hatched on May 15 to a female-female pair 2-15 and 28-05 in Marathon County. Fertile eggs from 2-04 and 25-09 were swapped into the female-female nest when black flies were hatching at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and likely would have caused a nest abandonment for 2-04 and 25-09. We didn’t believe W12-20 is still alive as of the end of May, which was confirmed in June.

W13-20 (U) hatched mid-May to parents 38-17 and 63-15 at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County and is still alive as of July 1.

W14-20 (U) hatched mid-May to parents 12-03 and 12-05 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County and is still alive as of July 1.

W15-20 (U) hatched mid-to-late May but was first seen in early June with parents 15-11 and 29-08 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. W15 was not seen during a flight on June 25, but we hope to still confirm if W15 is gone or still alive.

W16-20 (U) hatched mid-June to parents 2-04 and 25-09 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County. W16 hatched from 2-04 and 25-09’s second nest and is still alive as of July 1 as far as we know.

W17-20 (U) hatched in late June to parents W1-06 and 1-10 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County and is still alive as of July 1.

2019 Cohort

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

W14-19 (F) is still in Portage Co, WI, with 1_17 (M).

W19-19 (U) was still in Juneau Co, WI, during June with W3_18 (F) and W5_18 (M).

79-19 (F) is still in Dodge Co, WI, and is associating with 16_11 (M).

80-19 (F) left Livingston Co, IL, and is now in Grundy Co, IL.

2018 Cohort

W3_18 (F) and W5_18 (M) were seen together with W19_19 (U) in Juneau Co, WI, during June.

W1_18 (F) was last seen in Juneau Co in May.

W10_18 (U) and W6_18 (M) are both at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau Co, WI, but not together.

73_18 (F) has still been associating with 3_04 (M) during June, in Juneau Co, WI.

74_18 (M) and 75_18 (M) spent most of June together in Dodge Co, WI.

77_18 (M) was last seen in Eaton Co, MI during May.

Mortality or Long-term missing

W18-15 (F) has not been seen for over a year and is now considered long-term missing and has been removed from the population totals. W18-15 was last seen on the breeding grounds with her mate 19-10 in June 2019. 19-10 was seen alone at the end of 2019, then re-paired and nested with 7-11 (F) this spring. 7-11 and 19-10 have now split up.


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