|Conservation status||Endangered. Whoopers once nested on the northern prairies south to present-day Iowa and Illinois, but they disappeared as settlers moved in. As recently as 1912, about 90 birds wintered at various points in coastal Texas and Louisiana, and there was a nonmigratory population in southwestern Louisiana as well. By 1941 the Texas wintering flock was down to only 15 birds (another six were still resident in Louisiana, but that flock soon dwindled away). After 1941, numbers very gradually rose again, helped by protection on the wintering grounds and public education against shooting; by the mid-1990s, the Texas wintering flock approached 150. Attempts to start a new flock farther west (by putting Whooper eggs under Sandhill Cranes in Idaho) failed, but in the 1990s a new project aimed to start a nonmigratory flock in Florida, using birds raised in captivity. Most recently, an ambitious project has established a new flock that summers in Wisconsin, with young birds raised and then trained to follow an ultralight aircraft to Florida for their first southward migration.|
|Habitat||Muskeg (summer); prairie pools, marshes. Current breeding habitat is in remote northern forest, in areas of muskeg (swampy coniferous woods with numerous lakes and ponds). Formerly also nested in prairie marshes. Winters in coastal marsh, where adult pairs and families defend territories, returning to same territory each winter.|
See family introduction.
2, sometimes 1 or 3. Olive-buff, spotted with dark brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 29-31 days; female usually incubates at night. Young: Downy young leave nest within a few hours after hatching. Both parents feed young. Two eggs typically hatch, but very rarely or never does more than one young bird survive. Young is able to fly at about 3 months after hatching.
Downy young leave nest within a few hours after hatching. Both parents feed young. Two eggs typically hatch, but very rarely or never does more than one young bird survive. Young is able to fly at about 3 months after hatching.
Omnivorous. In winter, eats insects, shrimp, crabs, clams, snails, frogs, snakes, small fish, seeds, acorns, roots, berries. Summer diet not well known, probably a similarly wide variety of animal and plant matter.
In courtship, pairs "dance," leaping into air repeatedly with flapping wings, bills pointed upward, giving bugling calls; dance has a dignified look. Other displays include bowing, tossing tufts of grass in the air, and loud trumpeting or "whooping" calls. Nest site is on ground, typically on marshy island in lake or pond. Nest (built by both sexes) is a large mound of grass, weeds, mud, with depression at center.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates by day, in family groups or small flocks. Travels along rather narrow corridors and makes traditional stopovers. Although they may travel in flocks, in winter they mostly separate out into family groups, each pair of adults defending a feeding territory against intruding cranes.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA trumpet-like call that can be heard for several miles.
Learn more about this sound collection.