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The traditional nesting grounds of the whooping crane are greatly reduced due to habitat destruction. Migrating cranes have been using a marsh in northern Canada for breeding, flying to the southern part of the United States for the winter.
A new breeding ground has been established now in Wisconsin with birds that had been raised in captivity. These cranes are then guided down to winter quarters by using an ultra-light aircraft, which the birds follow down to Florida. Parks where whooping cranes overwinter generally restrict access to these rare, but recovering, birds.
See Related: Endangered Species in California
The whooping crane came about as close to total extinction in the 1930s that it is possible for a species to experience – only about 15 cranes remained alive. The cranes had not only been mercilessly poached, but their eggs were collected, and nesting and wintering grounds were destroyed through development.
Some predators will attack and eat either chicks or adult cranes, including bald and golden eagles, lynx, foxes, wolves, bobcats (a serious threat in Florida), and black bears.
See Related: Endangered Species in Florida
To save this beautiful bird from extinction, the efforts of the Canadian and American Wildlife Services were put into play. All hunting and egg collecting is illegal, and refuges to protect breeding, resident, and migratory populations have been established.
Outstanding results have also been produced from captive breeding programs – eggs are incubated, hatched, then raised using whooping crane disguises so that the young birds will identify with their species.
The use of aircraft to guide the young cranes to wintering grounds and introduce them to established crane populations before migration has begun teaches the young whooping cranes how to get from breeding grounds to wintering areas and back again without a problem.
Cranes are heavily monitored for their protection. As some of the Gulf wintering areas are adjacent to wind farms, these facilities are shut down immediately when cranes appear in their vicinity.
See Related: Best Conservation Posters
International Crane Foundation
The International Crane Foundation works to protect cranes worldwide and their habitats, including the Whopping Crane.