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Whooping Crane: Our continent’s tallest bird

Whooping Cranes fly at Patoka River NWR in Indiana. Photo by Steve Gifford/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Whooping Cranes fly at Patoka River NWR in Indiana. Photo by Steve Gifford/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted Whooping Crane the second most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Description, range, and population

DESCRIPTION. Five feet tall. Bright white with red crown and red and black facial skin. Black wing tips obvious in flight. Juvenile mostly reddish brown. (ABA Code 2)

RANGE. Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta and Northwest Territories. Aransas NWR, Texas. Reintroduced flocks in Wisconsin, Florida, and Louisiana.

POPULATION. Wild: approximately 273 in the flock that migrates between Texas and northern Canada. Reintroduced flocks: 106 in the eastern migratory population, 28 non-migratory cranes in southern Louisiana, and 20 non-migratory birds in central Florida. Captive: 183. Total: About 610. Endangered.

View a real-time eBird map

Read about Wisconsin’s Necedah NWR, summer home of the Whooping Crane reintroduction project.


Viewing locations

TEXAS: Aransas NWR, Granger Lake, Welder Flats WMA

FLORIDA: St. Marks and Chassahowitzka NWRs, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, Three Lakes WMA, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Canoe Creek Rd./Joe Overstreet Landing


LOUISIANA: White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area


TENNESSEE: Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge

OKLAHOMA: Salt Plains NWR, Great Salt Plains State Park

KANSAS: Quivira NWR, Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area

NEBRASKA: Rowe Sanctuary, Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center in Alda


WISCONSIN: Necedah and Horicon NWRs


Captive birds

International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin
National Zoo, Washington, D.C.
San Antonio Zoo, Texas
Calgary Zoo, Alberta
Milwaukee County Zoo, Wisconsin
Audubon Zoo, New Orleans


Crane Festival 2013, September 13-15, 2013, Berlin, Wisconsin

Whooping Crane Festival, February 20-23, 2014, Port Aransas, Texas


Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival, January 2014, Birchwood, Tennessee; a few Whooping Cranes regularly linger or spend the winter on or near the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.


Whooping Crane and Coastal Birding Tours (Skimmer)

Whooping Crane Boat Tours (Wharf Cat)

Aransas Bay Birding Charters


Eagle-Eye Tours: Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes, October 10-14, 2013

Naturalist Journeys: Aldo Leopold’s Wisconsin, October 13-19, 2013; South Texas Birding and Wildlife, February 25-March 2, 2014, with pre-trip extension for Whooping Cranes, February 22-25

Bird Treks: Winter Birds of South Texas, January 10-19, 2014

High Lonesome Birdtours: Texas: Whooping Cranes and the Lower Rio Grande, February 21-March 1, 2014


Wings: The Rio Grande Valley with Whooping Crane Extension, February 15-24, 2014

Rockjumper Birding Tours: Texas — Whooping Cranes and the lower Rio Grande Valley, February 22-March 2, 2014

Field Guides: Spring in South Texas, March 22-30, 2014, March 21-29, 2015

Birdquest: South Texas: Whooping Cranes and Rio Grande Valley specialties and migration, March 28-April 6, 2014


About our poll

We wanted to know, and you told us.

Earlier this year, we published a list of 240 bird species that occur in the United States and Canada and asked readers of BirdWatching magazine to choose the 10 that they wanted to see most.

We derived our list from the authoritative ABA Checklist. We included all rare, casual, and accidental species (ABA Checklist Codes 3, 4, and 5); regularly occurring North American species that are not widespread (Codes 1 and 2); and one species that was once dangerously close to extinction but today is surviving in captivity and struggling to become naturally re-established (Code 6). We omitted most species not native to North America.

Nearly 900 of our readers participated. Their 10 most-wanted birds include three owls, a handful of endangered species, a clown-faced puffin, a blue-footed seabird that is rarely spotted in the United States, and America’s one and only condor.


We presented the 10 most-wanted birds in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching. Our article included not only the descriptions, population info, and eBird maps above but also 10 things you didn’t know about each species.

Originally Published

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