Cranes (Sand Hill & Whooping) - eworley

Whooping Cranes

There are a number of Whooping Cranes that are wintering over at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and it is a wonderful/rare sight to be able to witness them in the wild.  I took some images, although from a great distance away posted below.

First some information and facts about Whooping Cranes that I have collected from Wikipedia.

The Whooping Crane (Grus americana), the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. In 2003, there were about 153 pairs of whooping cranes. Along with the Sandhill Crane, it is one of only two crane species found in North America. The Whooping Crane's lifespan is estimated to be 22 to 24 years in the wild. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive Whooping Cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. As of 2011, there are an estimated 437 birds in the wild and more than 165 in captivity.An adult Whooping Crane is white with a red crown and a long, dark, pointed bill. Immature Whooping Cranes are cinnamon brown. While in flight, their long necks are kept straight and their long dark legs trail behind. Adult Whooping Cranes' black wing tips are visible during flight. The species can stand up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) and have a wingspan of 2.3 meters (7.5 feet). Males weigh on average 7.3 kg (16 lb), while females weigh 6.2 kg (14 lb) on average (Erickson, 1976).[4] The body length averages about 132 cm (52 in).[5] The standard linear measurements of the Whooping cranes are a wing chord length of 53–63 cm (21–25 in), an exposed culmen length of 11.7–16 cm (4.6–6.3 in) and a tarsus of 26–31 cm (10–12 in).The only other very large, long-legged white birds in North America are: the Great Egret, which is over a foot shorter and one-seventh the weight of this crane; the Great White Heron, which is a morph of the Great Blue Heron in Florida; and the Wood Stork. All three other birds are at least 30% smaller than the whooping crane. Herons and storks are also quite different in structure from the crane.


The Whooping Cranes at Wheeler, to my eyes, don't seem to be that much larger than the Sandhill Cranes(more about them later) that they are buddies with.


Whooping Crane with Sand Hill Cranes (150mm lens)

Above image "zoomed in"

Adult and juvenile Whooping Cranes and Sand Hill Cranes

Cropped view of above image

Another cropped image of juvenile and adult


Sandhill Cranes

In contrast to the Whooping Cranes, the Sandhill Cranes are numerous.  There are estimated to be over 13, 000 wintering at Wheeler this year.   They are a very impressive sight, whether flying or feeding on the ground.

Some information from Wikipedia relative to Sandhill Cranes.

The Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird references habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska's Sandhills on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the Lesser Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis canadensis), with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually. Adult is gray overall; during breeding, the plumage is usually much worn and stained, particular in the migratory populations, and looks nearly ochre. The average weight of the larger male is 4.57 kg (10.1 lb), while the average weight of females is 4.02 kg (8.9 lb), with a range of 2.7 to 6.7 kg (6.0 to 14.8 lb) across the subspecies.The Sandhill Crane has a red forehead, white cheeks and a long dark pointed bill. Its long dark legs trail behind in flight, and the long neck is kept straight in flight. Immature birds have reddish brown upperparts and gray underparts. The sexes look alike. Size varies among the different subspecies; the average height of these birds is around 80 to 120 cm (2.6 to 3.9 ft).[6] The standard linear measurements of the Sandhill are: the wing chord measures 41.8–60 cm (16.5–23.6 in), the tail is 10–26.4 cm (3.9–10.4 in), the exposed culmen is 6.9–16 cm (2.7–6.3 in) long and the tarsus measures 15.5–26.6 cm (6.1–10.5 in).This crane frequently gives a loud trumpeting call that suggests a French-style "r" rolled in the throat, and they can be heard from a long distance. Mated pairs of cranes engage in "unison calling." The cranes stand close together, calling in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes two calls for every single call of the male. The Sandhill Crane's large wingspan, typically 1.65 to 2.1 m (5.4 to 6.9 ft), makes this a very skilled soaring bird similar in style to hawks and eagles. Utilizing thermals to obtain lift, they can stay aloft for many hours, requiring only occasional flapping of their wings and consequently expending little energy. With migratory flocks containing hundreds of birds, they can create clear outlines of the normally invisible rising columns of air (thermals) that they ride. Sandhill Cranes fly south for the winter. In their wintering areas they form flocks of over 10,000 birds.

As with the Whooping Cranes I have not been able to get very close.


Sandhill Cranes