Reporting Marlee McCormick
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) – North America’s tallest birds, the endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana), have begun their annual 2,400-mile fall migration from Canada to Texas.
Since the 1940′s ‘Whoopers’ have wintered along the Texas Gulf coast near Rockport on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. As the rare birds approach our area, Texas Whooper Watch, a volunteer monitoring program, is inviting Texas residents to report bird sightings online.
The program was developed to help the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department learn more about the endangered species and their winter habitats in Texas.
According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, in 1942 there were only 16 Whooping Cranes left in what was thought to be the last flock in the world. Since then, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. As of 2011, there were an estimated 400+ birds in the wild and more than 165 in captivity.
This year biologists expect Whooping Cranes to start arriving in late October or early November. Their migratory path runs through North and Central Texas cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, and Victoria.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, during migration the birds often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night.
The cranes are solid white in color except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched.
For more information, including photos of whooping crane look-alike species, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
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