Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge
Mountain-Prairie Region
~ Whooping Crane ~

Appearance
Height: 5 feet
Wing span: 7.5 feet
Adult whooping cranes are white with rust-colored patches on top and back of head. They have yellow eyes and long black legs and bills. The primary wing feathers are black but are only visible in flight.

Whooping crane chicks are rust-colored when they hatch, feathers begin turning white at about 4 months. By fall they are brown and white.

Life Cycle:
Whooping cranes mate for life, but will accept a new mate if one dies. The mated pair shares duties on the nest.

Their nests are made of bulrushes about 4 feet wide with a flat-topped central mound up to 5 inches above the water.

Lays 2 eggs that incubate for 29-31 days. Generally one chick survives. It can leave the nest while quite young, but it is still protected and fed by its parents.

Migration
Leave breeding ground in Canada in mid-September and begin the spring migration north to Canada in late March or early April. Whooping cranes live and migrate in families with both parents and one or two chicks. Whooping cranes travel more than 2,400 miles a year during migration

If you are extremely lucky you could see whooping cranes in North Dakota as they are migrating. They might be with flocks of sandhill cranes.

Diet:
Crabs, clams, crayfish, snails, minnows, frog, leeches and occasionally voles and lemmings.

Habitat
Winter habitat are salt flats and marshes on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. They summer and nest in wetlands in Canada's Northwest Territories at Wood Buffalo National Park.
Wetlands

Other interesting tidbits:
The whooping crane is on the Endangered Species List. As many as 1,400 whooping cranes migrated across North America in the mid-1800's. By the late 1930's, the Aransas population was down to just 18 birds. Because of efforts to protect habitat and the birds themselves, populations are slowly increasing. By 2004 there were approximately, 185 whoppers.

The life span of a whooping crane is up to 24 years in the wild.

The greatest threats to whooping cranes are power lines, illegal hunting and habitat loss. The cranes are susceptible to chemical and oil spills.

Last updated: March 10, 2011