For the Birds Radio Program: Birds in the News

Original Air Date: Dec. 20, 2004

Sad news about Whooping Cranes, and a new report about the prospects of many species with climate change. And good news about the building where New York’s Pale Male is nesting.

Duration: 3′57″


Birds in the News

According to Tom Stehn, a USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator, “The wild whooping crane that had been shot in Kansas and transported to the USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD, for recovery, died overnight. The endangered bird was being treated for shotgun wounds, including a broken wing, and a respiratory condition. Earlier this week, Dr. Glenn H. Olsen, Patuxent’s veterinarian, reported that the cranes respiratory problems had worsened since his arrival at Patuxent. The crane was receiving nebulization therapy, antibiotics, and oral antifungal medications.

The injured crane, part of the last remaining wild flock of an endangered species that migrates annually from northern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, was shot as he traveled through Kansas on migration south. The bird had 11 pellets in its body and a broken wing. Another male crane was shot during this incident and did not survive. The injured crane received extensive treatment at Kansas State University before being sent to Patuxent on Thurs., Nov. 18. The carcass will be sent to the National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon for necropsy, because the shooting of whooping cranes is still under investigation by the FWS Law Enforcement.

Patuxent has led the recovery efforts for this endangered species since the 1960s, and has unique expertise in whooping crane care. Whooping cranes, native only to North America, are a protected endangered species, and the rarest of all cranes. The whooping crane that died had been a member of the last remaining wild flock, which numbers 213 birds today. There are about 440 whoopers in the world today, about one third of which are in captivity.

“With such as small number of whoopers alive in the world, the loss of each individual bird is upsetting, especially one that we cared for so intensely,” said Dr. John B. French, Jr., head of the Crane program at Patuxent.

A new report from The Wildlife Society - “Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America” is now on the web. The report is 34 pages long, and contains excellent graphics and climate model data, in addition to other valuable information. It’s linked to my own website at

Finally, the building managers of the New York City 5th Avenue highrise where Pale Male, the celebrated Red-tailed Hawk, was evicted have succumbed to public pressure and are now going to allow the bird to rebuild his nest. Of course, the New York Audubon chapter is keeping a close watch, because there is a concern that they may be biding their time, hoping the hawks move on. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for a public outcry of similar magnitude about recent oilspills in Alaska and near Philadelphia. Sadly, in 2004 it’s a rarer event to displace one pair of urban Red-tailed Hawks than to spill tens or hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the environment, outright killing a great many birds and damaging their habitat.