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Revisiting the historic distribution and habitats of the Whooping Crane

October 23, 2018

The endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) historically had a wide distribution that covered diverse ecoregions across North America while retaining consistent habitat preferences within each ecoregion. We reevaluate the historic information compiled by Robert Porter Allen in 1952 and added 74 other records. Based on the ecological features of historic locations relative to crane life history, we revisit Allen’s description of the whooping crane’s niche and identify four features common to breeding and wintering areas: (1) gentle to rolling topography with an interspersion of wetland and prairie habitats, and relatively sparse cover of trees and shrubs; (2) high densities of shallow, open wetlands or wetland complexes; (3) hydrological regimes that provide reliable conditions for nesting, brood rearing, and flightless adults; and (4) high plant and animal productivity due to fertile soils, hydrological pulsing, periodic inflow of nutrients, or other periodic perturbations. Accurate determination of the ecological features that compose Whooping Crane habitats should stimulate renewed discussions about habitat requirements and can support development of improved reintroduction strategies for the long-term success of recovery efforts.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Revisiting the historic distribution and habitats of the Whooping Crane
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-803555-9.00003-7
Authors Jane E. Austin, Matthew A. Hayes, Jeb A. Barzen
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70200513
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center