Whooping cranes leave Quivira

QUIVIRA — More than 70 whooping cranes that were reported earlier today at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge have moved on.

Last night, birders spotted 66 of the cranes: three at the observation tower; 43 at the Big Salt Marsh, and an additional 20 elsewhere on the refuge, according to an e-mail from Melanie Olds, a biological science technician. Another 10 birds were reported today.

But with today's blustery warm winds, the birds left nearly as quickly as they came.

The endangered 5-foot-tall white birds come through Kansas twice a year as they migrate 2,500 miles from their wintering spot at Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico to their summer nesting grounds in northern Canada.

In 1942, only 14 birds were left. Now there are about 440, although one-third are in captivity. The bird has been federally protected since 1918.