Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane
-Grus americana-

The whooping crane, our tallest bird, is native only to North America. Listed as highly endangered, the sole remaining natural wild migratory flock winters in Texas with breeding and nesting in northern Canada. Efforts are underway to re-establish a second migratory flock between Wisconsin and Florida with the use of ultra-light aircraft teaching the young cranes the migration route. There are currently 72 whooping cranes in that re-introduced flock. A non-migratory flock in central Florida numbers 37 cranes. Whooping cranes are bred in 5 locations in North America with young of the year used for re-introductions.

Whooping crane populations dipped to fewer than thirty
birds during the late 1930s. Through extensive conservation efforts the flock that winters in Texas has increased to 266 individuals according to the 2007 census figures. The whooping crane population increased dramatically by 30 birds in 2007 as a record 65 nests produced 39 fledged young that reached the wintering grounds. Nine white-plumaged cranes died from unknown causes during the year. Current total population is approximately 523 birds including captive, non-migratory, and migratory flocks.

Plumage is almost entirely white with black primaries, has
black bristles on carmine crown. Chicks are mottled cinnamon, fading to white with cinnamon skull cap as sub-adults. Greatest threats are habitat loss, loss of freshwater inflows, and collision with man-made obstructions such a power lines, fences and wind turbines. Though sexually mature at three years, most whoopers do not reproduce until age five.

Whoopers arrive in Texas during October and remain through early April. While spending the day of March 15 on San Antonio Bay with our editor, Capt. Everett Johnson, we counted 33 individual whooping cranes; approximately 12% of the total North American migratory population… awful cool. The greatest number was sighted on Welder Flats, Shoalwater Bay, and several pairs in the marshes of Matagorda Island.

Body length: 52 inches
Wing span: 87 inches
Weight: 15 pounds