Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update – April 2021

Nests – and eggs! Our staff placed the first nest camera of the year near Whooping Crane pair 4-12 and 3-14’s nest in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. Photo by Hillary Thompson.

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month, most birds have returned to the breeding grounds and a few have even started nesting! 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 77 (37 F, 37 M, 3 U). Sixteen of these 77 individuals are wild-hatched and the rest are captive-reared. To the best of our knowledge, as of 1 April, there are at least 67 Whooping Cranes in Wisconsin, three in Illinois, two in Michigan, one that was last reported in Kentucky, and three that were last reported in Indiana but are likely in Wisconsin. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month. Some cranes have left the wintering grounds but have not yet been detected in Wisconsin. Their last known locations (in the past month) are on the map below.

Click here to view our interactive “Where are the Whoopers” map for more details, including bios on each of the cranes.


As of 1 April, we have at least four to five nests so far this spring in Wisconsin.

Active nests: One in Sauk County, one possible nest in Marquette County, two in Green Lake County and one in Juneau County.

2020 Cohort

W3-20 (F) left KY with parents 11-15 and 42-09 and is now in Adams Co, WI.

W13-20 (M) left IL with parents 38-17 and 63-15 and is now in Dodge Co, WI.

W14-20 (M) left IN with parents 12-03 and 12-05 but has not yet been confirmed further north.

W18-20 (F) left AL and went to KY with parents 13-02 and 24-08, and is now in Clay Co, IL with 80-19 (F).

2019 Cohort

W1-19 (F) returned to Wisconsin and was seen in Juneau County with another Whooping Crane.

W14-19 (F) returned to Wisconsin and is in Portage County by herself.

W19-19 (U) is in Juneau County Wisconsin with W3-18 (F).

79-19 (F) is in Dodge County, Wisconsin with 16-11 (M).

80-19 (F) left Hopkins Co, KY, and is now in Clay Co, IL with W18-20 (F).

Mortality, Long-term missing

72_17 (M) was found dead in Michigan during March, although he likely died sometime last fall. The suspected cause of death is powerline collision, although there were not enough remains to confirm.

23_10 (F) and W7_17 (F) have not been seen in the past year and are now considered long-term missing and have been removed from the population size estimate.


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