Floating high above the continent, the Whooping Crane embarks upon its 2,500-mile trek in October to winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. Families, twins, and adolescents alike are among the scarce crane population that seem like royalty to us. They preen, dance through the marshes, sing to communicate, and search for the perfect meal as they live their lives in the wide outdoors. The Whooping Crane stands tall – each of them dignitaries, some as tall as seven feet. As our festival celebrates 17 years, we admire and appreciate the dedication of each and every birder, researcher and teacher.
The endangered Whooping Crane is the rarest of all cranes and among the oldest living bird species on the earth. By 1938, only two small flocks of cranes remained – one non-migratory and one migratory flock, which was found nesting at Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territory in Alberta, Canada in 1954. This is the only wild flock that returns annually in the fall to its winter home at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge in Austwell, Texas (approximately 50 miles from Port Aransas).
Recovering from a low of only 21 birds in the wild in the 1940′s to around 600 birds today, the Whooping Crane’s recovery is one of conservation’s most inspiring success stories. Of the total birds, approximately 300 are in the migrating flock at AWR. Whooping cranes can mate for life and live to be 25 years old. Whooping cranes build “floating nests” that sit in shallow water six to ten inches deep and perform elaborate courtship dances and calls, including their loud unison call prior to mating. If successful, a pair will usually fledge two eggs per clutch, with only one surviving. Chicks are a cinnamon brown color and grow up to one inch per day during their first summer. Adult cranes are almost entirely white with the only non-white markings being their black wingtips and black facial markings, a bare patch of red skin on top of their heads and black legs and feet. Wingspans can be seven to eight feet with their weight averaging 15 pounds which makes them adaptable to flying long distances.
The recovery and conservation efforts to protect and save whooping cranes from extinction has, and continues to be a phenomenal story involving many partners around the world. Join us at this educational and enjoyable festival to learn more about the on-going efforts to protect and conserve this rarest of species. Proceeds from our festival benefits the conservation of whooping cranes through the International Crane Foundation.
The International Crane Foundation (ICF) commits to a future where all crane species are secure – a future where people cooperate to protect and restore wild populations and their ecosystems. These efforts sustain the places where cranes live, to the benefit of countless other species.