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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

Whooping Crane

Grus americana (Linnaeus, 1758)

Range: Formerly Canada and United States
Habitat: Wetlands 
Diet:  Crustaceans, Fish, Frogs, Berries, Grain
Social Grouping: Paired, Family Groups, Small Flocks
Reproduction: Monogamous for life, elaborate courtship displays and dances/calling, nest on mound of vegetation near water, 2 eggs usual (only one usually raised to maturity), both parents incubate for one month, fledge at 80-100 days, independent at 9 months,  mature at 3-5 years old
Lifespan:  30 Years (Wild), 35-40 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered, CITES Appendix I

  • The tallest bird in North America, standing 130-150 centimeters tall with a wingspan of 200-230 centimeters, weighing 6-7.5 kilograms; males are larger than females
  •  Plumage is entirely white plumage, except for red and black markings on face and black wing tips; the crown of the head is bare red skin covered with short black bristles
  • Undergo an annual migration of 4,000 kilometers from their summer nesting grounds to their winter feeding grounds in the south
  • Predators include bears, wolves, foxes, wolverines, and coyotes; raptors (especially golden eagles) are the major threat during migration; cranes fly at very high altitudes to avoid predators
  •  Population reduced to 16 individuals by mid-20th century; threats included loss of habitat, disruption of migration routes, hunting for food, egg collection, and collision with power lines  
  • Species was saved through a multi-facated approach: monitoring of wild populations, captive breeding/reintroduction (utilizing some fostering with related sandhill cranes), and the teaching of new migration routes (using ultra-light aircrafts); there are now about 300 whooping cranes in wild


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