Friday, April 5, 2013

Hooded Crane Update

One of the biggest birding stories that began back in late 2011 was the discovery of a hooded crane at Hiwassee wildlife refuge located northwest of Chattanooga, TN.  The bird stayed several weeks at Hiwassee with the 1000's of sandhill cranes that come there every winter.  When the sandhill cranes began migrating back north in 2012, the hooded crane left with them, and was recorded at one more place in Indiana.

Birders from all over the U.S. came to Hiwassee to see this beautiful bird in hopes that it would eventually be accepted as a wild bird, and thus a first North American record for the species. I first wrote about the hooded crane on 12/18/11 in this blog when I had just returned from seeing it.  Both photos were taken by Doug Koch (click on any photo to enlarge).  I believe it is obvious which bird is the hooded crane.

The debate began almost immediately within the birding community about the crane's provenance.  Given that its normal breeding territory is in Siberia, and most of the 10,000 hooded crane population winters in Japan, there was great skepticism about it being a wild bird.  As a result, the bird review committees in both Indiana and Tennessee spent a year researching whether it could have been a wild bird rather than an escapee.

There are almost no hooded cranes in captivity in the U.S.  After finding that all known captive hooded cranes were accounted for, and studying the possibility that this hooded crane had migrated in the fall of 2011 from Siberia to the U.S. with the sandhill cranes, both the Indiana (6-1 vote) and the Tennessee (5-1 vote) state bird review committees have now accepted the hooded crane as being wild.  The next step is for the ABA to review the "evidence", and make a decision about whether to add the hooded crane to the ABA bird list.

I am going to be birding in Florida next week, and will be reporting about my time there.  Stay tuned!

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