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Description

BREEDING MALE

Very large, white hreon-like bird. Looks entirely white when not flying.  Black primaries show in flight.

  • Long, pointed bill.
  • Long legs and neck
  • Black on face
  • Red crown
  • In flight, neck and legs extended.

Neck remains straight when at rest or in flight.  Herons and egrets often show 'S' shaped neck in flight or when feeding.

Whooping CraneThe Whooping Crane is one of the 2010 International Migratory Bird Day Featured Species. Artwork by Robert Petty.

Female

Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Body mainly white, with some brown feathers.  Pale brown head and neck.

Habitat

Breeds in freshwater marshes and prairies.  The largest population nests in Canada.  Attempts have been made to develop other wild populations in New Mexico and Florida, with various levels of success.

Uses grain fields and shallow ponds during migration.  The largest population winters along the Texas coast in saltwater marshes.

Diet

Whooping Cranes feed on a variety of plants and small animals, including insects, fish, frogs and grain during migration.  Cranes along the Texas coast utilize crabs.  Low crab populations along the Texas coast may have contributed to a high mortality rate in some years.

Behavior

Whooping Cranes perform a somewhat awkward dance during courtship.  Wing flaps, tossing of the head and flipping items into the air are part of the ritual.

They feed on the ground, using their strong bills to probe and stab for food.

Range

Summer/breeding in Canada, winters along the Texas coast.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Whooping Crane.


Fun Facts

Whooping Cranes are one of our most endangered birds.  In the early 1940's, populations dropped to 16 individuals.  Recovery efforts have increased the wild population to over 200 birds.

Operation Migration has been attempting to establish a second, sustainable wild populaiton.

The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is the hub of Whooping Crane conservation efforts.

 

Vocalizations

A single bugle-like call.

Similar Species

  • Sandhill Crane
    The Sandhill Crane is similar is size and shape, but grayer overall.

     

  • Great Egret
    The all-white Great Egret is large with long legs and neck, lacks red on head. Does not show black in wings during flight.

     

    great egret

Nesting

Whooping Crane nests are located in marshy area and are built on a mound of vegetation.

Eggs are placed in a shallow depression.

Visit the Environment Canada web site for the latest nesting results.

Eggs

Number: 1–3 eggs
Color: Light brown with variable brown blotches.

Professor Bird