Thursday, February 22, 2018

Texas drought threatens whooping cranes as food dwindles

The devastating drought in Texas is raising worries that the parched conditions could harm the only self-sustaining flock of whooping cranes left in the wild.

The lack of rain has made estuaries and marshlands too salty for blue crabs to thrive and destroyed a usually plentiful supply of wolfberries, two foods that the cranes usually devour during their annual migration to the Texas Gulf Coast. The high-protein diet is supposed to sustain North America's tallest bird through the winter and prepare it for the nesting season in Canada.

In addition to the loss of blue crabs and wolfberries, a long-lasting "red tide" — a toxic algae that blooms in salty water — has made it dangerous for the birds to eat clams, which retain the algae's toxin and can pass it along the food chain.

"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 in Texas, the winter home of about half of the 300 cranes in the flock.

In 2009, when Texas last suffered a severe drought, an estimated 23 whooping cranes died between November and March, when they head north to nest in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park. Tests indicated some had contracted rare diseases and were undernourished. Scientists believe some died of starvation.

This year, at least one crane has already died, Alonso said.

Scientists are alarmed because they don't normally see dead birds so early in the season. Usually, only 1 percent — or about three birds — die over the winter.

A century ago, the whooping cranes' majestic 5-foot frame and mournful call were common across the Texas shoreline and as far away as the East and West coasts. By the 1940s, the pesticide DDT and disappearing habitat had decimated the population, leaving only 14 birds in the country. The ban of DDT and efforts by scientists and Gulf Coast residents who view the cranes as a part of the tranquil landscape helped rebuild a small population.

In addition to the Texas flock, a smaller group cared for by conservationists migrates between Wisconsin and Florida by following an ultralight aircraft. The birds are trained to think of the aircraft as their mother.

Comments
After crowd cheered Rubio’s words about banning semiautomatic weapons, he says idea is ‘well outside the mainstream’

After crowd cheered Rubio’s words about banning semiautomatic weapons, he says idea is ‘well outside the mainstream’

Sen. Marco Rubio earned support for stepping onto the CNN stage last night and he shifted his position on some policy, but afterward he sought to reaffirm his 2nd Amendment bonafides by saying a call to ban all semi-automatic weapons is "a position w...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Trump slams Fla Education Commissioner suggestion on ‘active shooter’ drills

Trump slams Fla Education Commissioner suggestion on ‘active shooter’ drills

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump this morning appeared to swiftly rebuke an idea offered by Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to look at more active shooting drills."Active shooter drills is a very negative thing," Trump said during...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Employee tip leads police to body in Tarpon Springs parking lot

Employee tip leads police to body in Tarpon Springs parking lot

TARPON SPRINGS — Police are conducting a death investigation after an unidentified body was found Thursday in a van at a Walmart parking lot.Around 1:30 p.m., police responded to a call from an employee at the store, 41232 U.S. 19 N, who reported an ...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

The Rays found a taker for OF/DH Corey Dickerson, trading him Thursday to the Pirates for veteran reliever Daniel Hudson, minor-league INF Tristan Gray and $1-million cash.Hudson, 30, will compete for a spot in the Rays bullpen, coming off a rou...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
CNN denies feeding a Parkland survivor a ‘scripted question’ before town hall

CNN denies feeding a Parkland survivor a ‘scripted question’ before town hall

CNN said there 'is absolutely no truth' to a Parkland survivor's claim that the network gave him pre-written questions to ask at Wednesday night's gun violence town hall.The network's communications office posted a message to Twitter Thursday morning...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

GAINESVILLE — Tight ends coach Larry Scott hasn't even been with the Gators for a month, but he already understands the state's rivalries well.The former Miami interim coach referred to his old program as "that other school down south" during h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Pistols at Dawn’: Guns alive and well in GOP primary for Florida Attorney General

‘Pistols at Dawn’: Guns alive and well in GOP primary for Florida Attorney General

A tragic 2010 shooting in Tampa, in which a father was killed in front of his 8-year-old daughter while they were playing basketball, is a line of attack for a Republican candidate for attorney general.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, has been se...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FL Lottery

FL Lottery
Updated: 1 hour ago

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 4 Midday' game

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 4 Midday' game
Updated: 1 hour ago

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 5 Midday' game

Winning numbers drawn in 'Pick 5 Midday' game
Updated: 1 hour ago