Cranes are one of the most endangered
birds in North America. Only 21 wild birds were left by 1941. Strict
protection has brought numbers slowly up, with well over 200 now in the wild,
and nearly 300 in captivity. Whooping Cranes are monogamous
and mate for life.
Habitat: Sloughs, marshes, and fields on
its migration through the state.
Diet: Omnivorous. Summer diet not
well known, but eats aquatic plants, acorns, seeds and grain, insects,
crustaceans, frogs, snakes, and fish on its wintering grounds in Texas.
Behavior: Forages both on land and in shallow
water. In water, forages by walking slowly and grabbing food items
when spotted, or occasionally by standing still and waiting for fish and
other prey items to approach. On land, walks slowly across the
Breeding: Currently a non-breeder in South Dakota.
However, historically they used to nest nearby in eastern North Dakota and
western Minnesota. It is likely they used to nest in northeastern
South Dakota prior to European settlement.
Song: Loud, carrying ker-le-loo.
Migration: Largest wild flock winters on the central Texas coast and
summers in Wood Buffalo National Park in central Canada.
Conservation Status: Still seriously endangered, but populations are slowly and steadily increasing,
with the total wild population now well over 200. Efforts are
underway to establish a migratory flock in Wisconsin as insurance against the
possibility of a major event wiping out the only existing migratory flocks.
Young of the year are taught to follow an ultralight aircraft from the summer
grounds in Wisconsin to the wintering grounds in Florida. This program has
met with some success, with some birds returning on their own to Wisconsin in
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Whooping Crane
Crane Foundation article
Photo Information: September 2010, taken at Calgary
Zoo - Public domain photo obtained through