My first close sighting of a Whooping Crane was from the deck of Capt. Kevin Sims’ boat as we cruised the shallow waters between the islands and sand bars in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Aransas Bay, Texas where the cranes migrate for the winter. It was a thrill to see a pair of these beautiful, rare and very large white birds catching crabs in a shallow pool in the marsh land only 250 feet from our boat.
Whooping Cranes are named for their whooping sound and call. Also known as Whoopers, they are a rare and federally endangered bird. There are about only 550 cranes in North America, and fortunately the population appears to be stable and growing thanks to the protection and fostering of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. At one point the count was down to 16 birds in 1941. The Whooper is the tallest bird in North America, standing at five feet, with a wing span of 7.5 feet. It is white, with black tipped wings and a red and black crown.
Whooping Cranes mate for life and travel in family units. Juveniles tend to have a brownish neck and brown mottled wings, until they reach the full maturity of adulthood.
We were fortunate to witness the slow and graceful takeoff of a Whooping Crane family of two adults and one juvenile.
It was a rare and rewarding experience to observe and photograph these magnificent birds. I hope that you enjoy these images as much as I did in creating them.
Photo by John Greene.