The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America. This species was almost wiped out at the turn of the 19th century due to hunting pressures. The Whooping Crane was listed as endangered in the federal register in 1970 and this listing was carried forward into the 1973 Endangered Species Act. The Whooping Crane was also designated as endangered by Canada in 1978. The designated critical habitat for the cranes is potentially threatened by the effects of climate change. The wintering habitat for the largest population of cranes located on the San Antonio Bay and covered by the Guadalupe River HCP.
USFWS Endangered Species Act Status:
TPWD Species Conservation Status
Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio counties
The adult Whooping Crane stands five feet tall and has white feathers on most of its body, with black specialty feathers, a black patch on the back of the neck, olive-gray bill, gray-black legs, and a yellow iris. (Stephenson 1971).
Whooping Cranes are a very long-lived bird with many viable years of reproductive maturity. Whopping Cranes in managed care environments have lifespans of up to 40 years, but individuals in wild populations rarely live past the age of 30 (Blankinship, 1976). The largest wild population of cranes at Wood Buffalo National Park migrates over 2,500 miles through North America to an overwintering area on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and surrounding areas along the Texas coast.
Habitat and Diet:
Whooping Crane populations spend the winter eating foods such as fish, clams, crabs, wild wolfberries (Allen 1952). During the summer, the birds eat insects, frogs, rodents, birds, minnows and berries (Allen 1952). The Whooping Crane habitat requirements consist of saline influenced wetlands, bays and flats in the wintering area (Allen 1952) and freshwater wetlands with shallow pools surrounded by spruce tree ridges. The winter wetlands often have vegetation species such as salt grass, saltwort and smooth cordgrass (Allen 1952). The nesting wetlands often have emergent vegetation such as rushes and sedge near the shallow nesting ponds (Allen 1956).
Allen, R. P. (1952). The Whooping Crane Resource Report. (3). National Audubon Society.
Allen, R. P. (1956). A Report on the Whooping Cranes’ Northern Breeding Grounds Supplemental Resource Report. (3). National Audubon Society.
Blankinship, D. R. (1976). Studies of whooping cranes on the wintering grounds. Proceedings of the International Crane Workshop. 197-206. Oklahoma State University Press. Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Stephenson, J. D. (1971). Plumage development and growth of young whooping cranes. MS
Thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis.Oregon.
Traylor-Holzer, K. (2019). Population Viability Analysis (PVA) Report for the Species Meta-Population of Whooping Cranes (Grus americana). IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group. Apple Valley, Minnesota.
United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (2007). International Recovery Plan for the Whooping Crane (Grus americana) Third Revision. Albuquerque, New Mexico.