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Public Asked to Report Whooping Crane Sightings

As many as 210 whooping cranes, one of North America's most endangered birds, are beginning their fall migration and will likely make their way through North Dakota over the next few weeks. Anyone seeing these rare birds as they head through the state is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked, according to Stan Kohn, migratory bird biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Whoopers stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip. They are white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge office at 701-387-4397, Crosby Wetland Management District office at 701-965-6488, the state game and fish department's main office in Bismarck at 701-328-6300, or to local game wardens around the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes.

Anyone sighting whoopers should record the date, time, location, and the birds' activity, but not disturb them. Kohn also requests that observers look closely for colored leg bands which may occur on one or both legs. Young whooping cranes were marked during 1975-1988 with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.




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