Eleven of 15 species of cranes (family: Gruidae) are considered vulnerable or endangered, and the increase of agriculture and aquaculture at the expense of natural wetlands and grasslands is a threat to Gruidae worldwide. A reintroduced population of Whooping Crane (Grus americana) was studied in coastal and agricultural wetlands of Louisiana and Texas, USA. The objectives were to compare Whooping Crane movements across seasons, quantify multiscale habitat selection, and identify seasonal shifts in selection. Whooping Cranes (n = 53) were tracked with satellite transmitters to estimate seasonal core-use areas (50% home range contours) via Brownian bridge movement models and assess habitat selection. Whooping Crane core-use areas (n = 283) ranged from 4.7 to 438.0 km2, and habitat selection changed seasonally as shallow water availability varied. Whooping Crane core-use areas were composed of more fresh marsh in spring/summer, but shifted towards rice and crawfish (Procambarus spp.) aquaculture in the fall/winter. Within core-use areas, aquaculture was most strongly selected, particularly in fall when fresh marsh became unsuitable. Overall, the shifting of Whooping Crane habitat selection over seasons is likely to require large, heterogeneous areas. Whooping Crane use of agricultural and natural wetlands may depend on spatio-temporal dynamics of water depth.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4