Yesterday (Thursday) after work I went for a short walk around a series of small ponds.  I did not even bring my binoculars.  Halfway through my walk I saw a large white bird with black wing tips alight in one of the recently drained basins.  My initial thought was, “That was either a wood stork or a whooping crane, and I do not think it was a wood stork”.  I tried to study the bird, but without binoculars it was not easy.  I tried to approach slowly.  The bird simply kept pace in the same direction.  Finally I decided that the bird was in no hurry to leave and if it really was a whooping crane it was worth hurrying back and getting my binoculars.  So I did.

The bird was still there when I returned.  And indeed it was a whooping crane.  Very tall, white, black wing tips, dark around the face near the bill, a hint of red on the head, a fairly long, fairly straight bill – an adult it seemed to be  This was only the second whooping crane I have seen in the wild.  I saw one in Texas 20 years ago or so.

The bird has 2 or 3 different markers on its leg(s).  However, I saw no numbers.  Most interesting to me was that at first I thought there was a reed stem or something stuck to one leg.  Eventually I decided the ‘reed’ was probably a radio antenna.  I do not know if people put radios on the legs of whooping cranes or not, but in retrospect, it makes sense.  Perhaps it was even a satellite radio, I don’t know.  

I do not know the rules for posting the location of rare species, so I won’t bother posting the location of this bird.  Indeed I was (obviously) in no hurry to even post the sighting.  However, in browsing the internet this evening I got the impression perhaps even the FWC or USFWS or the state people in Wisconsin might appreciate if I did at least post about it somewhere.   If any government-types are really serious about learning more, send me a private message and your work phone number and work address.

Mark Miller

Gainesville, Florida


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