WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be reintroducing whooping cranes into southwestern Louisiana, hoping to contribute toward the recovery of the species.
The only natural wild population of whooping cranes is vulnerable to total destruction through a natural catastrophe or contaminant spill, due primarily to the bird’s limited wintering distribution along the Texas gulf coast, according to the agency.
The agency plans to introduce the cranes into the rest of the state also, and to evaluate the merit of releasing captive-reared whooping cranes, conditioned for wild release, as a technique for establishing a self-sustaining, nonmigratory population.
The whooping crane was listed as an endangered species in 1967.
According to the agency, there were 500 to 700 whooping cranes in 1870, by 1941, the migratory population contained only 16 individuals, according to the agency. This notable decline in numbers was due largely to human related impacts like hunting and wetland loss.
According to the agency, the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America; males approach five feet tall. In captivity, adult males average 16 pounds and females 14 lbs. Adults can live to 32 years in the wild and 27 to 40 years in captivity. Adult plumage is snowy white except for black primary feathers, black or grayish alulae, sparse black bristly feathers on the red crown and side of the head, and a dark gray-black wedge-shaped patch on the nape.