Every year, endangered Whooping Cranes fly south from Canada to spend their winter along the Texas Gulf Coast at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes some of the cranes can be seen in open fields near Goose Island State Park in Rockport.
Several years ago we spent a few days at Goose Island State Park in hopes of seeing some of these endangered Whooping Cranes. Every day we went out in search of these beautiful birds and every day we saw them. I posted about our experience at 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.
Sometimes there would be Sandhill Cranes hanging around in the field, too. They are smaller than the Whoopers and have darker feathers.
One afternoon the Whoopers kept us entertained flapping their wings and jumping around.
When they took off it was sad to see them go but spectacular to watch.
The Whoopers were the star of the show but all around them there were a lot of other things going on in the field.
Great Blue Heron near Goose Island State Park
Roseate Spoonbills in farmers field
Snowy Egret with black-bellied whistling ducks
Occasionally the cows would walk by the fence to check us out
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.