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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 13:35 EDT

Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane (Grus americana) is a very large crane and the tallest North American bird.

Adult birds are white with a red crown and a long dark pointed bill. They have long dark legs which trail behind in flight and a long neck that is kept straight in flight. Black wing tips can be seen in flight. Immature birds are pale brown.

Their breeding habitat is muskeg; the only known nesting location is Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and its surrounding area. They nest on the ground, usually on a raised area in a marsh. The female will lay 1 to 3 eggs, however both parents feed the young. Usually no more than one young bird survives in a season.

The only known wintering location for these birds is Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas which was created to preserve their wintering grounds.

These birds forage while walking in shallow water or in fields, sometimes probing with their bills. They are omnivorous, eating insects, aquatic plants and animals, crustaceans, seeds and berries.

This bird’s name comes from their whooping call. The Whooping Crane is endangered mainly as a result of habitat loss. At one time, the range for these birds extended throughout midwestern North America. In 1941, the wild population consisted of 21 birds. A number of attempts have been made to establish other breeding populations in the wild, some involving Sandhill Cranes (which failed); yearly releases of isolation-reared birds as a non-migrating population in Florida has resulted at least in some few first successful breeding attempts; the isolation rearing of other young Whooping cranes and their training to follow ultralight airplanes is also successful so far: they do learn the migration from Wisconsin to Florida and come back on their own the following spring.

Whooping Crane