Whooping Crane Facts

  • Blog Post by: T.R. Michels
  • June 6, 2011 - 1:40 PM

At one time there were more than 10,000 whooping cranes in North America. But, due to hunting, human encroachment, egg poaching and habitat loss the population of the tallest bird in North America was reduced to 21 in the 1940's.

Whooping cranes may reach heights of 5 feet and have a wingspan of 7.5 feet, with lengths of 52 inches. The males average 17 pounds, females average 14 ponds. They are completely white with black wingtips, and red and black markings on the head. They breed in marshy areas such as muskeg and taiga. After the reintroduction of whooping cranes to the Necedah National Wildlife refuge in central Wisconsin, there are only two nesting locations the one being on that refuge and the other in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada. As a result of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership Reintroduction Project, whooping cranes nested for the first time in 100 years in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Central Wisconsin. They nest on the ground, usually on a raised area in a marsh. The female lays 1 or 2 eggs, generally from late-April to mid-May. They incubate the eggs for 29–35 days. Both parents raise the young, although the female is more likely to tend to them than the male. Usually only one of the two chicks survive. The parents may feed the chicks for 6–8 months after they are hatched and end their parental care after about 1 year.

The western population of whooping canes, with 242 adults, 71 juveniles and 78 adults pairs as of 2010, winters along the Gulf Coast of Texas, near Corpus Christi on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma is a major migratory stopover for the crane population hosting over 75% of the species annually. The eastern population with 94 adults, 25 juveniles and 12 active nesting pairs as of 2010, summers on the Necedah Refuge and winters at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Wakulla County, FL. The combined total of whooping cranes in the wild and in captivity in 2010 was approximately 564 birds. Due to poor nesting success on the Necedah Refuge, possibly due to high number of black flies, the whooping crane recovery team has made the decision not to release any more cranes on the Necedah Refuge, until such time as the cause of the nest abandonment issue is resolved.

I have been in contact with both the people at the International Crane Institute in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and at the Necdedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wiscons. I have been invited to both places to view and photograph the cranes, and learn as much about their biology and behavior, and their management and conservation concerns, as I can. I am looking forward to this opportunity this summer.We will be offering a Whooping Cane bus tour to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin, to view wild Whooping Cranes, and to the International Crane Institute in Baraboo Wisconsin, to view the cranes of the world - on July 14, 2011, and again on August 13, 2011. There will be room for approximately 50 people. This will be a great opportunity to photograph several species of crane from around the world. For more information .




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