We have identified a need to assess wintering ecology of cranes so as to better predict the types of habitats they may use and the quantity and quality of habitats that may be available throughout the EMP. This is pertinent not only to understanding winter ecology but also to elucidate the linkages that exist between winter habitat quality and subsequent reproductive success. If time and funding permit (or as subsequent research efforts) we also would seek to better understand food quality and availability at wintering sites, wintering movement patterns, and territoriality for breeding pairs or family groups during the nonbreeding season.
The goal of the research is to enhance our understanding of wintering habitat use of whooping cranes so as to better inform decision-making as it relates to wintering habitat assessment as well as the development and protection of current or alternative wintering sites. Our objectives are to (1) quantify wintering habitat use of adult whooping cranes at the patch and landscape scales from monitoring data collected for the EMP between 2001-2013, (2) using habitat models created in objective 1, predict suitability of potential wintering areas east of the Mississippi River, (3) solicit expert opinion to further inform the development of predictive habitat models for novel wintering sites east of the Mississippi River, and (4) use a structured decision making framework to evaluate possible wintering habitat locations as identified in objectives 2 and 3.