The Whooping Crane (Grus americana), the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery1.
The four chicks, about six-months old, are part of an experimental rearing and release method referred to as “parent-rearing.” The parent-reared Whooping Crane chicks were hatched and raised by captive adult whooping cranes at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. This method relies entirely on the expertise of captive parents, who care for, exercise, and feed the chicks. These chicks will join a flock of about 95 cranes that inhabit wetlands on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and elsewhere in central Wisconsin during the spring and summer. The flock is composed of cranes reintroduced into the wild in order to establish a migratory flock of whooping cranes in the eastern United States. The Eastern Migratory Flock flies south to wetlands in the Southeast United States for the winter2.
Over the last 35 years a series of reintroduction projects have been developed to establish new wild Whooping Crane populations. The projects have had varying success, but as each project builds on previous attempts we are learning what techniques work most effectively. Today, as a result of years of dedication, a second Whooping Crane population numbering over 100 birds migrates through the eastern United States. In 2010 two chicks successfully fledged in this population – a symbol of hope for the future of Whooping Crane conservation3.
There are several organizations working to bring this incredible species back from the brink of extinction. We urge you to support their efforts: