Table of Contents
- Whoopers have white plumage (feathers) with black wingtips and a red
patch of skin on the top of their head, gray-black legs and feet, an
olive-gray beak and yellow orange eyes. An average adult male is 5 feet tall
with a wingspan of about 7and1/2 feet. They only weigh 16 pounds.
- Their call is deep and guttural and can be heard up to 2 miles away.
A whooping crane's trachea is longer than its body and coiled in the sternum
(chest) of the bird; this allows for the quality and strength of the call.
- Whooping cranes mate for life and usually start having babies
when they are about 4 or 5 years old. They find their mates in sub-adult
groups when they join them at 2 or 3 years after living with their parents'
flock and learning the route to the wintering ground.
- Whooping cranes flocked together when there were lots of birds,
and while they still do this you can see single whooping cranes in flocks of
other birds, usually sandhill cranes. However, when the cranes get to the wintering
or nesting grounds they are very territorial and will guard their carefully
marked area by deciding who gets to stay and who has to go.
- The birds will fight to keep their territory, even against their children.
- Whooping cranes lay twoeggs, but usually only one of the chicks survives. There is no real
distinction on whose role it is to sit on the eggs and raise the chicks-
both male and female do the task equally.
- Migration takes place in October and November and sometimes earlier than that.
This gives the chicks time to gain enough strength to fly, and they follow
the route that their parents teach them. They continue to fly this way most
of their lives.
- Whoopers live in wetlands and/or in secluded areas away from humans. Humans
who deal with the young cranes in captivity wear whooping crane
costumes so that the whooping cranes will know just what kind of bird they
should mate with.
- The whooping crane was put on the endangered species list in 1976.
Researchers and various associations formed to help the whooping crane hope that all
the efforts will soon move the bird up to the status of threatened.
- The whooping crane is indigenous to North America and its peak was in the Pleistocene
Epoch (Ice Age).
- In the 1800s their numbers were well above 1000
and started to drop as western expansion and exploration increased.
- Hunters and collectors ignored the
fact that the whooper was close to extinction and instead continued to hunt them.
- In the 1930s only 2-flock remained- a stationary flock in Louisiana and
a migratory flock that nested in Canada and wintered in Texas.
- The conservation movement existed in the thirties but really took off in
the forties when the nesting area of the Canada/Texas flock was found.
- This allowed for researchers and biologists to take eggs from the wild
and raise them in captivity.
- Some of the big research centers and bird refuges are Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD; Aransas Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
in Aransas, TX Bosque del Apache NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) in Soccoro,
NM and Grays Lakes, Idaho.
- Grays Lakes is where the Rocky Mountain project started and the whooping
cranes were raised by sandhill cranes.
- Since the late 1960s the captive flocks have produced and continue
to produce enough eggs so that they no longer have to be taken from the
- Sandhill cranes are cousins of the whooping crane and are used to
incubate and raise the whoopers.
- The whooping crane belongs to a family that
has several other species. Whoopers are not to be confused with egrets and herons.
All of the photographs used in this site appear in the bibliography with proper credits.