Date of this Version
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE BUREAU OF SPORT FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE
All of the world's wild whooping cranes winter on or near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast. Whoopers are about five feet tall, with red-crowned heads and black-tipped wings. Grus americana, as he is called by the scientist, weighs close to 20 pounds, and during migration flies high, sometimes out of sight, on wings with a seven-foot spread, signaling his passage with a trumpet-like call. In flight, the cranes have a slow downbeat and a fast upbeat of the wings. They fly with their long necks and legs extended.
During the last 30 years, the whooping crane has staged a gallant battle for survival. Annual counts made on the Aransas Refuge since its establishment in 1937, dramatically reveal this. In the fall of 1941, only 15 whoopers came to the refuge. Their numbers have fluctuated up to a high of 34 in 1949, down to a low of 21 in 1952, up to an encouraging 38 in 1961, and down to 32 the very next year. In the fall of 1964, 42 cranes, including a record 10 young birds, reached Aransas safely; 44 in 1965, and 43 in 1966. Although whoopers were found in much larger numbers during the early exploration and settlement of the country, it is believed that they have not really been abundant since the early Pleistocene period, 500,000 years ago.