VIDEO: Endangered cranes, other migratory birds confounded by Texas drought
Migratory birds, like the endangered whooping crane, are struggling because their typical wintering grounds are gripped by a drought that's reduced their habitat and food supplies. But favorable conditions elsewhere may help them survive in places like Nebraska.
Endangered whooping cranes that migrate annually from Canada to Texas and back are spending less time in Texas this year.
In fact, they spent practically no time at all. Some of the cranes never even left Nebraska to head south, while others bypassed Texas and flew all the way down to Belize in Central America, according to the Associated Press.
All of the weird behavior with the cranes, and other birds like snowy owls, may be because of the terrible drought that has enveloped the state for months, the AP found.
"We have birds scattered all over the place looking for habitat right now," Richard Kostecke, a bird expert and associate director of conservation, research and planning at the Nature Conservancy in Texas, said to the AP.
Scientists say the drought has reduced habitat and food supplies that birds need. They're worried, though, that while many of the birds have merely moved onto better habitat, they may not be able to get enough nutrition to survive the long migrations back north.
"One of the biggest concerns is for the whooping crane. There are only about 300 of these majestic, 5-foot birds left in the wild. This endangered flock, which scientists and the federal government have been working to revitalize for decades, flies every year from its nesting grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast," the AP wrote.
Just one family of cranes was found along the Gulf this year, and another group of birds was found in Nebraska. But some two-thirds of the birds are simply missing, though researchers hope they'll turn up back in Canada later this year, having spread out to unusual places to find the food they need.