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Whooping Crane

Abilene Zoo: Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane (Grus americana) is the tallest bird in North America and is celebrated for its striking white plumage and distinctive, resonant call that can be heard over long distances. Visit our Wetlands of the Americas exhibit to witness these awe-inspiring birds up close. Let’s delve into their diet, habitat, size, conservation status, and uncover some captivating facts about the Whooping Crane.

Diet

Whooping Cranes are omnivores, primarily feeding on crustaceans, small fish, amphibians, and insects. They are also known to eat grains, marsh plants, and even small mammals or birds. They forage for food in their wetland habitats, using their long beaks to probe in mud or shallow water.

Habitat

Whooping Cranes inhabit wetlands, marshes, and prairies throughout North America. They breed in the northern regions of Canada and spend their winters along the Gulf Coast of Texas, specifically in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Some smaller populations have also been established in Florida and Wisconsin.

Size and Weight

Standing at about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, the Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America. They have a wingspan of 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) and weigh between 13 to 17 pounds (6 to 8 kg). Males are slightly larger than females, but both sexes are similar in appearance, with white plumage, black wingtips, and a red crown.

Conservation Status

Once on the brink of extinction, the Whooping Crane is now listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Conservation efforts have slowly increased their population, but they still face threats from habitat loss, human disturbance, and collisions with power lines.

Intriguing Facts

  1. Loud and Clear: The Whooping Crane is named for its distinctive, loud call, which can carry over several kilometers. This call plays a vital role in maintaining contact between individuals and pairs.
  2. Migratory Birds: Whooping Cranes are migratory, traveling more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from their breeding grounds in Canada to their wintering habitat in Texas.
  3. Dedicated Parents: Both parents share in the responsibilities of raising their young. They usually lay two eggs, but typically only one chick survives to adulthood.
  4. Courtship Dance: Whooping Cranes perform an enchanting courtship dance that involves leaping, wing-flapping, and tossing of feathers. This dance not only strengthens the pair bond but also demonstrates physical fitness.
  5. Conservation Success Story: Whooping Cranes were once down to a mere 21 individuals in the wild. Thanks to extensive conservation efforts, their numbers have slowly increased, marking one of the most significant recovery efforts for an endangered species.

Visit the Whooping Crane at the Abilene Zoo

During your visit to the Abilene Zoo, be sure to stop by our Wetlands of the Americas exhibit to observe the majestic Whooping Crane. As you learn about their remarkable recovery story, unique behaviors, and critical role in wetland ecosystems, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for these spectacular birds. We invite you to join us in our efforts to protect and preserve these precious avian wonders.

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