Whopping Crane

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Common Name: Whooping Crane
Scientific Name: Grus americana

Size: 52 inches (132cm)

Habitat: North America; throughout North America before 1700. There are only three wild populations (as of December 2007), including two reintroduced populations in the eastern U.S. that are not yet self-sustaining. The only natural wild population breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park, on the border of Northwest Territories and Alberta, Canada, and winters at and near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA. Found in prairie wetlands, preferring small, shallow lakes and ponds, willow communities, marshes, mudflats and meadows. It winters in coastal brackish wetlands.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 50-249. This crane declined from historic estimates of 10,000+ prior to European settlement of North America to 1,300-1,400 birds by 1870 to 15 adults in 1938. This crane has listed endangered since 1967 because it has an extremely small population. Over-hunting, habitat conversion and human disturbance were the main causes of the decline. The 2007 population is estimated at 266 individuals.

Early numerous attempts to re-establish breeding populations met with poor to mixed results; more recent attempts have fared much better. The conservation status of the species is improving, with not only increases in the natural wild population but also establishment of two reintroduced flocks that may become self-sustaining. If the number of mature individuals continues to increase, this species may merit downlisting to Vulnerable.

Currently, the most significant known cause of death or injury to fledglings is collision with power lines. Powerline markers can reduce collisions by 50-80%, but most power lines remain unmarked and collision is a major and growing problem.

Diet: Crustaceans, mollusks, fish (such as eel), berries, small reptiles and aquatic plants. Crane feed by wading in shallow water or in fields and probing the area with their bills.

Nesting: They nest on the ground, usually on a raised area in a marsh. The female lays 1 or 2 eggs, usually in late-April to mid-May. The blotchy, olive-colored eggs average 2½ inches in breadth and 4 inches in length. The incubation period is 29–35 days. Both parents brood the young, although the female is more likely to directly tend to the young. Usually no more than one young bird survives in a season. The parents often feed the young for 6–8 months after birth and the terminus of the offspring-parent relationship occurs after about 1 year. Pre-fledged eggs and chicks are subject to predation (raven, bald eagle, wolf, black bear, lynx). Juveniles have a brownish tint to their heads and topside parts of their necks and torsos.

Cool Facts: The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and one of two crane species found in the US (the other being the Sandhill Crane). It gets its name from the 'whooping' sound it makes.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume I

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