Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update – April 2023

Whooping Crane, Dodge County, Wisconsin
Whooping Cranes began returning to their breeding areas in the upper Midwest in early March. Pictured is female 38-17 in Dodge County, Wisconsin.

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. In the last month, most Whooping Cranes have returned to Wisconsin! 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. The International Crane Foundation produced this report.

Population Estimate 

The current estimated population size is 72 (37 F, 34 M, 1 U). Sixteen of these 72 individuals are wild-hatched, and the rest are captive-reared. To the best of our knowledge, as of 5 April, there are at least 50 in Wisconsin, three in Michigan, and two last seen in Illinois. The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month, or they are no longer seen on the wintering grounds but have not yet been reported on the breeding grounds. Their last known locations (in the past month) are on the map below.  

Whooping Crane locations, 5 April 2023
Click here to view our interactive “Where are the Whoopers” map for more details, including bios on each crane.

2022 Cohort

W1-22 (U) was last seen alone in Lawrence County, Illinois, in March.

2021 Cohort 

W2-21 (M) returned to Green Lake County, Wisconsin and has been seen with W3-17 (F). Additionally, W2-21 was seen unison-calling with W3-17 and presented as male.

W14-21 (M) has not yet been seen in Wisconsin but has likely left Kentucky.

84-21 (F) moved around a lot this spring but is now in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

85-21 (M) returned to Wisconsin and has been moving around a lot! He is most recently in Jackson County.

2020 Cohort 

W3-20 (F) was seen in Dane County, Wisconsin, in early April.

W13-20 (M) returned to Dodge County, Wisconsin and was seen with 79-19 (F) and sometimes 16-11 (M).

W18-20 (F) was seen alone in early April in Dodge County, Wisconsin.

Mortality and Long-term Missing

30-16 (M) has not been seen since November 2022 and is now considered long-term missing and has been removed from the population totals above. His mate W3-17 showed up on the wintering grounds without 30-16 and has not returned to Wisconsin and appears to be re-pairing with another male.


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