At about 4.9 feet, the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America. This bird, which is considered to be endangered, is fascinating, both for its recovery from the brink of extinction and for its inherent beauty.
Saving the Whooping Crane
According to the National Geographic Society, there were only sixteen whooping cranes alive in 1941. At that point in time, it wasn't illegal to shoot the birds, and people were destroying their natural habitats.
As part of conservation efforts, people have literally led whooping cranes on their migratory paths using ultralight aircrafts in order to train the birds to go "home." Other efforts to prevent the birds from extinction include captive breeding programs and habitat management.
While the total number of birds, either captive or free, still number less than 500, wild whooping cranes are now following their traditional migratory paths, a hopeful sign for the birds' future.
Whopping Crane Information
Adults are predominantly white, with red crowns on top of their heads. They have long, pointed bills. They may have black wingtips. Juveniles are usually a cinnamon color. These birds prefer to live in family groups and pairs mate for life. However, if one of the mates dies, the other will re-mate if possible.
In addition to being tall, their wing span is about 7 ½ feet. These birds have an average lifetime in the wild of 22 to 24 years.
Whooping cranes are omnivorous, meaning that the birds will eat both plants and meat. Among the foods that these cranes enjoy are insects, acorns, shellfish, water plants and frogs.
Today, whooping cranes breed predominately in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park and spend winters in the Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Protection plans include diversifying migratory paths and locations for breeding and wintering, as the birds' habitats are still under pressure because of pollution and our expanding population.
Whooping cranes' preferred habitats are wetlands. Cranes not only sleep in water but build their nests up in water for protection from predators. The average number of eggs laid is two, although only one baby usually survives to the fledgling stage.
The ivory billed woodpecker is critically endangered, and it is thought to have left North America entirely.
The red cockaded woodpecker is endangered but recovering, thanks to the efforts of conservationists.
The brown pelican is no longer endangered but is still a bird that needs protection.