Whooping crane

The tallest bird of North America- saved from the brink of extinction, with less than 20 left in the ’40s

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Once on the brink of extinction in the mid-20th century due to overhunting and widespread habitat loss, it stands as a testament to the power of conservation efforts and dedicated stewardship. Through the collective actions of government agencies, environmental organizations, and countless volunteers, this majestic bird has been given a second chance at survival. Standing tall at a towering height of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet), the whooping crane holds the distinction of being both the tallest and rarest bird species in North America.

With its striking white plumage and elegant stature, the whooping crane cuts a distinctive figure against the backdrop of its preferred habitats, which include marshes, lagoons, and shallow lakes. The crane’s exceptionally long and flexible neck serves as a valuable tool for foraging, allowing it to reach deep into the water to capture its prey with precision and efficiency. On their wintering grounds, whooping cranes feast upon a diet consisting primarily of blue crabs and wolfberries, while on their breeding grounds, they favor small mammals, insects, and amphibians to sustain themselves and their offspring.

Despite the challenges they face, whooping cranes exhibit remarkable resilience and adaptability in their breeding habits. While clutch sizes typically range from one to three eggs, only one chick typically survives to adulthood, reflecting the harsh realities of survival in the wild. However, nature occasionally surprises us with miracles, and instances of multiple chicks successfully fledging from a single clutch have been documented, offering hope for the continued recovery of this iconic species.

In addition to their biological significance, whooping cranes hold a special place in the hearts and minds of conservationists and bird enthusiasts alike. Their awe-inspiring comeback from the brink of extinction serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of proactive conservation efforts and the enduring power of collaboration in protecting our planet’s precious biodiversity.


Population est.
Official estimate
Extinct locally
United States

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No