Whooping cranes taking off during spring migration in South Dakota
© Gerrit Vyn/Minden Picture
Whoopin' it up!
For Endangered Species Day, celebrated annually on the third Friday of May, we're featuring the whooping crane, one of only two crane species found in North America. Once seen throughout midwestern North America, whooping cranes were driven perilously close to extinction by the early 1940s, with fewer than two dozen birds in the wild. Thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have now risen to more than 600. While that's good news, this limited recovery is still fragile, and these incredible creatures remain imperiled, particularly by the loss of their wetland habitat.
Whooping cranes are so named because of their unique and very loud call, which they sound either alone or in unison. The calls are so loud they can be heard at distances greater than a mile. Part of the reason the whooping crane is so loud is its trachea, which can be almost 5 feet long, curling into the bird's sternum to help it project.