Enjoy, Explore, Learn!
The refuge is an excellent outdoor classroom and offers many programs for schools, families, scout troops or anyone interested in learning.
Whooping Crane Recovery
Today’s whooping cranes are descendants of the last 15 birds found wintering in Texas in 1941.
Managing For Wildlife
The refuge actively manages these lands for the benefit of wildlife and you. Learn how!
Whooping Crane Gallery
View photos, listen to calls, or watch an educational video about the endangered birds
View the Gallery
Trails, overlooks, a fishing pier and 40’ observation tower offer many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the refuge.
Every winter when the whooping cranes arrive on the Texas coast, biologists fly aerial surveys to try and get an estimate of the endangered birds’ population. These flights are conducted in December when most of the whooping cranes are known to be on their wintering grounds. This is also a prime time for many other birds to be feeding in the coastal marsh. When flying over whooping crane habitat, this is the view from the plane. If you were counting the birds, how many whooping cranes would you say are below?Click here to find out!
The refuge posts Whooping Crane Updates while the cranes are on the Texas coast, their winter home. Get the most recent information on aerial surveys, habitat conditions and how the refuge is managing for the benefit of these endangered birds. While the Birds are Here
About the NWRS
The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants.
Learn more about the NWRS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Winter Whooping Crane Survey estimates there are a total of 279 whooping cranes, including 257 found within the primary wintering grounds and 22 beyond that area. During December, Service personnel conducted seven surveys of the primary wintering grounds of the Aransas/Wood-Buffalo flock, the last remaining wild flock of whooping cranes. With the help of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Texas Whooper Watch and other observers, documented sightings during that same time frame suggest there were at least 22 additional whooping cranes found outside the primary wintering grounds.
Last year, the survey estimated a total of 267 whooping cranes in the wild, including 254 on the primary wintering grounds and 13 beyond. Get the details on the science here.
The refuge uses Distance Sampling to estimate the population of whooping cranes within an established survey area. This survey method has been used to estimate populations of many other rare and endangered species, including fin whales, Karner butterflies and raptors. The refuge is not only interested in estimating the population within the survey area, it is also important to collect data on habitat conditions, food sources and other information that will lead to the best management decisions for the whooping cranes and other wildlife species.Counting the Birds
The average life span for an alligator that survives its first two years of life is about 50 years!
The Matagorda Island Unit of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is part of long chain of barrier islands that extend down the Texas coastline. This rugged landscape is host or home to many amazing wildlife species, including whooping cranes, Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, reddish egrets, alligators and coyotes.
Page Photo Credits All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted., Pier / Jeff Adams, Whooping Crane / Ryan Hagerty ©
Last Updated: May 02, 2013