About the Whooping CraneField Guide to Crane Behavior from the International Crane Foundation.
The whooping crane is thought to have once been found throughout much of North America, and is believed to have numbered between 700 and 1,500 birds in the 1800s. By the 1940s, however, the migratory population had dropped to 16 individuals due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting and was reduced to one naturally occuring, migrating population. Today, thanks to protection from the Endangered Species Act along with the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan, the total number of both wild and captive whooping cranes has reached 600 (as of Feb 2015, USFWS).
Operation MigrationFIeld Journal of Operation Migration. Later this year, these cranes will pass through Alabama as they migrate behind the aircraft to their wintering grounds. Just in case there weren't enough migratory birds to enjoy watching as they migrate, the whooping cranes provide birders with even more reason to keep an eye to the sky this fall.
Photos by: (top to bottom) Steve Gifford/CC BY 2.0; USFWS/CC BY 2.0