Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
The whooping crane is found in extremely limited locations in Canada and the U.S. and completes a long migration.

Did you know?

A whooping crane’s method of flying is so energy-efficient that it can easily go for 10 hours at a time and cover distances of up to 750 kilometres.

Scientific name: Grus americana
Average weight: 7.5 kg (male)
6.4 kg (female)
Average length: 1.2 m–1.4 m
Average wingspan: 2.2 m
Average lifespan: 22–24 years (up to 30 years)
The stately whooping crane walks through a marshland.

Our changing understanding

Canadian Geographic’s handful of articles about the endangered whooping crane over the years have shown a steady increase in our knowledge of the country’s tallest bird.

One of the earliest articles appeared in the late 1960s, with a call to action to save the whooping crane. The crane’s history was broken down piece by depressing piece. Fewer and fewer whooping cranes were found throughout the early 20th century and the magazine reported that in 1941, fewer than two dozen existed in the wild.

Naturalists north and south of the Canada–U.S. border knew the whooping crane wintered in Texas, but the bird’s whereabouts in the spring were unknown, which prevented conservationists from coming up with a practical management plan for the crane.

But in 1954, a surprise sighting of the whooping crane by a pilot and passenger in a helicopter en route to a fire in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park put a light at the end of a possible extinction tunnel. With this knowledge, Canadian and American biologists and wildlife conservationists put together plans that have since seen population increases.

As of 2009, the whooping crane population has risen to just under 400. While this number won’t put any conservationists out of work, it is far better than the close shave the bird experienced less than 70 years ago.