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WHOOPING CRANE } Grus americana

RANGE: Formerly throughout much of North America

STATUS: Whooping cranes are listed as Endangered by the World Conservation Union and under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

THREATS: Habitat loss

At five feet, whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, and sport a seven-foot wingspan when flying. They are named for their distinctive whooping call. Habitat loss and unregulated hunting drove them to the very brink of extinction in the 1940s, when at one point there were only 21 individual birds in the world. The species is making a slow and steady comeback thanks to legal protections and a conservation plan that includes captive breeding. There are now 350 birds in three separate wild populations, nesting in northern Canada, Florida, and eastern North America. The nonprofit group Operation Migration uses ultralight aircraft to teach captive-hatched whooping cranes a migratory route between Wisconsin and Florida.

Photo courtesy USGS