The whooping crane came perilously close to going extinct in 1941, when there were only 15 of the birds left. Fortunately, things have improved since then and today some 350 birds are found in the wild.
The birds will remain endangered until there are about 1,000 individual birds or at least 250 reproductive pairs, so there remains much room for improvement.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the lower Texas coast is home to the whooping crane. Founded in 1937, this refuge closely monitors the well being of Texas whoopers.
If you’d like to see one of these majestic birds, you should visit this refuge. “We offer six hiking trails, all open to the public,” said Laura Bonneu, refuge manager. “Entrance fee is two dollars for an individual or five dollars for a car.”
The whooping crane is snow white, with black wing tips that are visible when it takes flight. It sports a small red patch on top of its head and has long, black legs. At five feet tall, it is the tallest bird in North America.
The cranes breed in northern Canada during the spring and summer, then fly 2,400 miles to Texas to spend the fall and winter. They start arriving at the Aransas refuge in late October and stay around until March or April. They feed on blue crabs, small fish, clams and roots and berries.
Tour boats leave the Rockport-Fulton area and travel to the refuge for close-up views of the cranes.