Named for their distinctive whooping calls, the whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America and one of its most endangered. Standing at over five feet tall, the bird is covered in white plumage, accented with black tipped wings and a striking red crown. Whooping cranes establish lifelong mates and maintain their bonds through courtship dances and displays. The cranes were on the brink of extinction in 1941, but thanks to decades of successful conservation, a self-sustaining population of more than 300 birds now migrates between Texas and Canada. Despite this hopeful sign, there are still only 400 or more whooping cranes left in the wild today.
Global warming poses a great threat to the whooping crane’s fragile recovery. Warmer temperatures may lead to decreased rainfall and drought, shrinking their Canadian wetland habitat while giving land predators, such as foxes and lynx, easier access to chicks. In the crane’s Texas winter habitat, decreased rainfall coupled with rising sea levels would limit freshwater inflow, flooding its fragile marshes with seawater and harming blue crabs and other prey.
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