Magnificent Endangered Whooping Cranes

Our main reason to visit Goose Island State Park was to see the endangered Whooping Cranes. They are the tallest birds in North America and stand nearly 5 feet tall with a wingspan of about 7.5 feet. Beginning in September or October each year, the cranes migrate south about 2,500 miles from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge about 35 miles north of the state park. After wintering in Texas, they begin their migration back north to Canada about mid March each year.

In the 1940’s, the Whooping Crane population had dwindled to about 20 individuals. Today, according to the International Crane Foundation, there are about 599 (captive and wild). A survey conducted in 2013-2014 estimated about 300 of the wild population winter on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

A few of these spectacular birds sometimes make their way to a farmer’s field near the state park. There they feed and hang out with the cattle. There were sometimes as many as 11 Whooping Cranes at one time scattered around the field. Many thanks to Ingrid over at Live Laugh RV for the heads up on where to see them.

We went by the field every day to see what the Whoopers were up to.  With their large size and brilliant white feathers with a rust colored spot on their head they are easy to spot.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane
Whooping Cranes running and splashing
Whoopers going for a run

Sometimes there would be Sandhill Cranes hanging around in the field, too. They are smaller than the Whoopers and have darker feathers.

Whooping Cranes and Sandhill cranes share the field
Whooping Cranes and Sandhill cranes share the field

One afternoon the Whoopers kept us entertained flapping their wings and jumping around.

I though he was just eating
Ready…
Then he started to jump
Set…
High jump
Jump!
Landing
Landing
Splashing around
Splashing around
Sandhill crane flapping with a whooper watching
Whooper watches a Sandhill Crane showing off

When they took off it was sad to see them go but spectacular to watch.

Whooping Cranes in Lamar, Texas
Whooping Cranes in Texas

The Whoopers were the star of the show but all around them there were a lot of other things going on in the field.

I’m happy to know that due to the work of many people, the population of these birds continues to grow. I feel privileged to be able to see them in the wild.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane in Texas

26 thoughts on “Magnificent Endangered Whooping Cranes”

  1. Fantastic shots. I think you lucked out with your timing. I understand due to lots of rain the field was unusually flooded thus giving spectators fantastic opportunities to view these beauties. I love it when they put on a show 🙂

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    1. Ingrid, thank you! It poured down rain the night before we got there so the fields were pretty flooded. It was foggy and overcast every day. We never saw a clear blue sky. And the whoopers really did put on a show! I think the ones performing were pretty young. When I look closely at the photos I can see some of the brownish streaks in their feathers. Thanks again for the info about where to go!

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      1. Those were most likely the teenagers you were observing. Usually 3 hanging together. Your photos “almost” having me wanting to stay in Texas longer next season. Emphasis on “almost” 🙂

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        1. Ingrid, they probably were teenagers. There was a group of three that seemed to be showing off. I’m already thinking how I would like to return next winter and spend a little more time on the Texas coast.

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  2. Fantastic pictures and great reminder about these amazing birds. Hopefully one day, we’ll get out there and see them in person! Ingrid has really started something….I think the birds love to perform!

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  3. I was at Aransas in early 1972. As I recall, there were less than 60 whooping cranes then. I’m glad to see they have increased ten-fold.

    As usual, your photos are magnificent. I thought of a toe-dancer when I saw the one you labeled “Landing.” You caught it at the perfect moment.

    Thanks for sharing.

    >

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    1. Jean, thank you! Watching them strut around those Sandhill cranes and doing their dances was fantastic to see. They would carry on that like for a while, go back to eating, then start over again. Henry said they were mixing it up with the Sandhills!

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  4. I can see why you said you were having a good time despite the bad weather. What a privilege to get to see these gorgeous creatures. Wonderful shots of the jumping.

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  5. What fabulous shots you got! I can hear the enthusiasm through your writing. We may have to make a trip back to TX just to see these beauties. 🙂

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  6. I am so happy for you! What a wonderful experience you shared with hubby and the memory will stay with you forever. Beautiful photos of these birds, their struggle and survival is amazing. What a fun time you had!

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  7. What a thrilling experience Beth! I want to so go there now, but I’m not sure I can get John to give up any of our winter time in the Keys. Hope you get some sunshine soon.

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