Researchers have warned that severe drought in Texas, i.e. lack of water and scarcity of blue crabs and berries which whooping cranes normally eat during their annual migration to the Gulf Coast, can pose a threatening situation on the world’s only remaining flock of North America’s tallest bird i.e. whooping cranes. Not only draught but a toxic algae bloom could also play a devastating role against whooping cranes.
According to researchers, these slim white necked birds eat high protein diet to sustain through the winter and prepare it for the nesting season in Canada.
This year’s lack of rain has made sections of rivers meeting the sea and marshlands salty making it hard for the blue crabs to survive in such salty condition and damaged the normal abundance of wolf berries.
“We’re very apprehensive, very concerned, monitoring the population very closely to see what it is the reaction might be,” said Dan Alonso, manager of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the winter home of about half of the 300 remaining cranes.
Last severe draught in Texas killed 23 whooping cranes in 2009. According to Alonso, one crane has already been died this year and this is an alarming situation as researchers have not seen dead birds so early in the season, normally.
“I think we’re going to lose a bunch again this year,” said Tommy Moore, captain of a skimmer boat that takes tourists and bird lovers to view the cranes in Texas’ shallow wetlands.
“The only thing I’ve seen them eat, period, is dead fish off the side of the channel … there’s just nothing here to eat,” said Moore, who observes the birds nearly every day.