Taken from a July 22, 2015 post on The International Crane Foundation’s Website: “The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have captured a hybrid crane chick, referred to as a ‘Whoophill,’ in eastern Wisconsin and will place the chick in captivity. Whoophills are a result of a successful pairing between a Whooping crane and a Sandhill crane.”
More recently, on August 30th, I spotted an odd (to me) scene in a field; an adult Whooping Crane, an adult Sandhill Crane, and a young colt that was obviously part Whooping. My very own “Whoopsie”, and I was beyond excited to see it. After consideration I made the decision not to disclose the location of this little family.
There was much debate within the birding community over whether or not the first colt should have been removed, or left in nature to do as it would. It is not yet known if a Whooping/Sandhill hybrid would be able to breed, or if it is sterile and therefore a “waste”. Some worry that the re-establishment plan with the Whooping Cranes will be jeopardized through allowing Whooping Cranes and Sandhill Cranes to breed, as both species are monogamous and so will stay together for life. While perhaps that is the case, it is my opinion that we should leave them be for now, and see what happens. There are enough Whooping Crane pairs together to carry on and continue their species. If anything, Whoophills may be an indication that the natural in-the-wild breeding instinct of Whooping Cranes is becoming stronger, but without enough of them to go around at this point in time.
While the Whooping/Whooping pairs continue to breed and grow their species number, Whooping/Sandhill pairs may be a good thing for us to monitor for a while. If the number of true Whooping Crane pairs start to decrease, or the number of Whooping Sandhill pairs continues to increase, then we should tread carefully so as not to set the Whooping Crane species back once again. However, first, we should give these Whoophill hybrids a chance; see if they can contribute to either species in any way, or if they are indeed sterile.
Personally, I think the idea of someday seeing some “Whoophills” is an exciting one. A bird more rare than the Whooping Crane, and no doubt beautiful in it’s own way. If they truly hurt the Whooping Crane’s comeback, then it is our duty as stewards of the land to act. But if they are harmless, let nature take its course.