The Whooping crane, the tallest North American bird with a majestic wingspan of 7.5 feet, has been the object of ardent conservation efforts for over seventy years. To re-introduce captively bred and raised whooping cranes into the wild, scientists dress up like the cranes, with tinted visors that prevent the cranes from imprinting on human faces. Once down to 15 individuals, there are now approximately 380 whooping cranes in the wild. ‘Whoopers’ are serial monogamists, and pairs of birds call in rhythmic unison after waking, mating, and defending their turf, but it’s hard to imagine how they might defend themselves against climate change. Whooping cranes nest and mate in marshes, areas which will be transformed into mud flats throughout the United States and Canada in the coming years and decades (see California today). Drought also threatens this species by decreasing food availability. Coastal development, sea level rise, chemical spills, reduced freshwater inflows, and human disturbance threaten the Texan winter grounds of the Whooping Crane.
Art by Dennis Nance