Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update – May 2023

Whooping Crane, Dodge County, Wisconsin
Wild-hatched Whooping Crane W13-20 strikes a pose in Dodge County, Wisconsin. Lori Isaac

Below is the most recent update for the Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes. Nesting season is now in full swing! 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 1 May, there are at least 57 in Wisconsin, two in Michigan, and one unidentified bird was last seen in Illinois (not on the map since we do not know which bird it was). The remaining birds’ locations have not been confirmed in the last month. Their last known locations in the past month are on the below map.  

Whooping Crane locations, May 1, 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 possibly seen in Adams County, Wisconsin, during April. W1-22 is not banded, so we cannot confirm this sighting. It could also have been W2-21, but they were seen earlier in the month in Green Lake County with W3-17.

2021 Cohort 

W2-21 (M) was seen during April in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, with W3-17. He is unbranded, so he may be the unbanded bird in Adams County, Wisconsin, but we think it is more likely he is still in Green Lake County.

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

84-21 (F) and 85-21 (M) have been moving around together a lot this spring and are currently in Oconto County, Wisconsin.


Nests that were completed by 1 May:

Juneau County: 2 failed, likely due to black flies; 1 was a part of forced renesting; 1 failed for unknown reasons.

Marquette County: 1 nest failed for unknown reasons (eggs likely infertile).

Active nests: 

1-2 in Dodge County, 1 in Sauk County, at least 2 in Green Lake County, 1 in Portage County, 1 in St. Croix County, and 1 possibly in Juneau County.

We have not yet had an aerial survey this spring, so we likely missed a few early or short nests, and there may be other active nests on the landscape that we have not yet found.

Mortality and Long-term Missing

None known.


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