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Whooping Crane
Grus americana

Whooping cranes (Painting)
Whooping cranes (Aransas NWR painting), 20k JPEG
Copyright © Justin W. Moore
See more photos at OutdoorPhoto.com
One of two crane species found in North America, the endangered whooping crane-- measuring a stately four to five feet in height--is the continent's tallest bird. Once widespread throughout North America, the whooping crane faced almost certain extinction in 1937 when the wild population dipped to just fifteen birds. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts by Canada and the United States, the whooping crane has begun a slow but seemingly steady recovery. Coastal and marine pollution, illegal hunting, and the draining of crucial wetlands habitat pose continued threats to the species' survival; less than 375 whooping cranes exist in the entire world, including 4 adults at the San Antonio Zoo).

Named for their loud, resonating call which carries for miles, whooping cranes are snowy white, with black wing-tips, feet, and beak. Their cheeks and crown are bright red. Juveniles are white with a mottled caramel head and neck. Adults attain a wing-span of up to seven feet. In flight, the whooper extends its long neck and legs.

Whooping cranes breed in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories and migrate 2,400 miles annually to their protected coastal wintering grounds in Texas' Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The cranes begin arriving in late October and remain until mid-April, at which time they begin the long journey back to Canada. Each crane family occupies a large territory of approximately one square mile, defending it from predators and other cranes. Crane pairs normally lay two eggs, only one of which usually results in a surviving chick. Each winter, as the whooping cranes migrate from Canada to Texas, be sure to check the Texas whooping crane count.

Whooping cranes feed on blue crabs, clams, snails and other small marine creatures, and augment their diet with acorns, berries, insects, and crayfish.

Texas is blessed to have such a rare and beautiful bird as the whooping crane grace its coastal marshes each year. Whoopers can occasionally be viewed from the observation tower at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, but the best way to view the cranes is by tour boat. Rockport Birding & Kayak Adventures (1-877-892-4737), operates year-round out of Rockport, providing excellent viewing opportunities for whooping cranes and many other bird species.

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