For the first time in over 100 years, two wild whooping cranes have hatched in the Midwest. Now fledglings, the pair are doing well at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. This historic event brings continued hope in the effort to reintroduce whooping cranes to the eastern U.S. They were near extinction in the 1940s when the last migratory flock included less than 20 birds!
With the help of Journey North, my second graders will track the migration of these amazing, endangered birds this fall. One of the
most interesting things about this project is that the young birds are trained to follow an ultralight plane to Florida for their first migration.
Fun Facts About Whooping Cranes:
- Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. Males are almost 5 feet high, with a wingspan of about 7.5 feet. Females are slightly smaller--yet these huge birds weigh only 11-16 pounds.
- Whooping cranes engage in a dramatic courtship dance of calling, wing flapping, head bowing, jumping, bobbing and weaving.
- An average whooping crane egg is 4 inches long and weighs 7 ounces.
- The whooping crane is nicknamed "whooper" for its unusual call, which can be heard from up to two miles away. Its scientific name is Grus Americana.
- Whooping cranes are born with blue eyes that change color as they grow older. At about three months, their eyes will be a vivid aquamarine color. At about six months of age their eyes will be bright gold.
- Whooper parents have to teach their chicks to eat and drink. They teach them to eat by catching food for them -- insects, small fish, and invertebrates, and small mammals like mice or voles.
- Whooping crane chicks sleep standing up.
- Whooping cranes have 20 neck bones. Humans have only seven.