The Indiana Bird Records Committee (IBRC) records and archives Indiana’s diverse avifauna. Through the IBRC, we are able to document population changes and vagrancy on the state level. The IBRC recently voted to add the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP) Whooping Cranes to the state checklist.

The experimental Wisconsin population of Whooping Cranes were first established in 2001. In 2006, direct releases began into adult groups. The current population is not without issues, as black flies have plagued certain nesting areas, and parenting isn’t easy. Previous standards for listing required a species to be considered established, and without human intervention. Today’s conservation practices recognize that certain species will require human influence to remain in today’s world (i.e. Kirtland’s Warblers and fire/jack pine management). In recognition of this, as well as to better align with the American Birding Association (ABA) Checklist curated by the ABA Recording Standards and Ethics Committee, the IBRC has added the EMP population as a listable species on the state checklist effective retroactively Jan 1, 2022.

By allowing the listing of the new population of EMP Whooping Cranes, the hopes are to encourage birders to contribute towards Whooping Crane conservation in Indiana. It is vital that more open wetland habitat (especially adjacent to current crane wintering areas) be preserved in our state. Habitat loss is a major threat to cranes worldwide, and EMP Whooping Cranes are threatened in Indiana by the loss of emergent marshy wetlands and the conversion of privately owned agricultural fields to various development interests. Birders like “countable” species, as documented by ABA’s recent decision to include Hawaii in the ABA listing area.

The decision aligns with the mission of Indiana Audubon, “to stimulate in Indiana public appreciation of… natural resources [including birds] and the need for their conservation”. We think some birders will appreciate Indiana Whooping Cranes more if they can count them on their lists.

The IBRC weighed possible negative outcomes of this decision. Current reporting practices on social media (including eBird) are in line with the International Crane Foundation’s (ICF) guidelines for sharing the location of Whooping Cranes. Indiana Audubon will continue to recommend that birders follow ICF’s guidelines. eBird currently hides the exact locations of Whooping Cranes reported in Indiana under its “Sensitive Species” policy, which will prevent sightings from popping up on birder’s “Needs” alerts.

For more information on the Indiana Bird Records Committee, visit


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