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Whooping Crane

Whopping Crane
Grus americana
(Order Gruiformes; Family Gruidae)

Photo Adult.


Photo juvenile migrating.

Diagnosis:  The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America.  It has red bare skin on its crown, a black mustache, a heavy yellow bill and long black legs.  The Whooping Crane has extensive feathers that are pure white, except for black tipped wings. The black outer feathers can be seen in flight on the adult.  Juveniles are rust/brown colored when they are chicks and do not turn white until after their first migration.  They can stand up to 1.5 meters with a wingspan of 221 cm.  The Whooping Crane’s weight is around 6.8 kg.  Their sound chu-looo or cheer-ah-loo is heard over tremendous distances. 

Natural History:  Whooping Cranes mate for life until one dies.  They have an elaborate courtship dance with leaps, sweeps, flapping wings, head tossing and flinging items in the air like feathers and grass.  Whooping Cranes also peck and probe the ground.  Whole flocks have been known to take part in the courtship dance any time of the year.   In Wood Buffalo National Park in Northern Canada and other parts of Canada, the female lays a clutch of 1-3 eggs in a nest of vegetation.  Both male and females share brooding duties with only one egg hatching.   A light brown down covered hatchling emerges and is able to self feed within a day.  The hatching is fed and protected by mom and dad for a few months.  Some Whooping Cranes migrate to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, from November to March.  There is also an established colony of cranes in Florida. Whooping Cranes have been known to live for 24 years. 

Distribution:  Whooping Cranes can be seen in northern Alberta Canada and other southwestern territories in Canada.  They can be seen migrating to Texas and wintering in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.


Whooping Crane Migration Map.

Habitat:  Adults breed in freshwater marshes and prairies in Canada.  The use grain fields, shallow lakes, lagoons and saltwater marshes during migration and in the winter.

Diet:  Adults and Juveniles are opportunist feeders.  They eat aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and acorns.  They do eat plants and other animals.

Conservation Status:  Endangered.  In 1941-2 there were around 22 whooping cranes and in 2004, 194 were counted in Texas.  The National Wildlife Federation boasts there are more than 500 now (2013).


Flight to Survive: Saving Whooping Cranes


Whooping Crane

Saving the Whooping Crane



Floyd, Ted.  2008.  Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America.  Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY.

Brinkley, Edward S.  2007.  National Wildlife Federation.  A Field Guide to Birds of North America.  Sterling Publishing Company, New York, NY.

Frances, Peter.  2007.  Bird, The Definitive Visual Guide.  Audubon.  DK Publishing, New York, NY.


Submitted by:  Tammey Shimon, July 2013.

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