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In 1941, the world’s last migratory flock of whooping cranes was just 15 birds strong. Today, that flock has grown to over 500 birds and is increasing exponentially every year. But even as the flock continues to recover, their migratory corridor continues to shrink, due to the destruction of habitat by industrial agriculture, energy development, and other industries.
But throughout the most sparsely populated stretches of the Central Flyway, whooping cranes have some unlikely allies, too.
In Nebraska and Kansas, where wetlands and native prairie grasses have historically been drained, burned, and converted to cropland, some farmers are reversing that destruction by restoring wetlands and native grasses to their fields. The habitat projects, which are largely supported by conservation easements and incentive programs with the USDA, have been successful, showing signs of use by migrating whooping cranes and other bird species.
In rural north Texas, an anti-wind group of landowners and cattle ranchers is battling two energy developers with plans for large wind farms in the region, which lies in the middle of the critical stopover habitat for the migratory whooping cranes. The North Texas Heritage Association is using these endangered birds as a weapon in their fight, citing research that shows whooping cranes avoiding wind turbines by up to three miles when choosing where to rest.
migratory birds, renewable energy, wetlands, agriculture, conservation, landscape connectivity
Hill, Katherine Anne, "A Midwest Migration with Endangered Whooping Cranes" (2021). Graduate Student Portfolios, Papers, and Capstone Projects. 294.
© Copyright 2021 Katherine Anne Hill