Whooping Cranes…Rare Birds Indeed

By  | December 4, 2018 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News

Whooping cranes are migratory birds. They live in one place in summer and another place in winter. Migration is the repeated, seasonal journey in response to changing food availability. Cranes migrate by day, following landmarks they’ve memorized.

They weigh between  14-17 pounds and have a wingspan of  7-8 feet.  Whoopers eat crabs, shrimp, other aquatic animals and plants, berries, crop grains.   They live in wetlands and  migrate from Canada to Texas and from Wisconsin to coastal Florida. Some live year-round in central Florida and Louisiana.  (Note:  there are several whooping cranes that make Wheeler Wildlife Refuge their home.)

Crane chicks identify with whoever raises them. So, technicians dress in white costumes and use hand puppets that look like adult cranes. That way, when returned to nature, the young birds recognize whooping cranes—rather than people—as their own kind.whooping-crane-hatchling_23256_990x742

In nature, young cranes learn their migration route from their parents. But breeding center cranes don’t have adults to lead the way. So scientists train the flock to follow an ultralight aircraft on their first trip south. The young cranes only need a guide once; they find their own way back in the spring.  People are working hard to return endangered whooping cranes to nature. The eastern migratory population exists today because reintroduced flocks are taught to migrate by following ultralight aircraft.  (Note:  Whooping Cranes have increased in population and the ultralight migrations are no longer needed.)

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