Whooping cranes stand almost 5 ft. tall, and have a wingspan of 6-7 ft. (2 meters). Adult whooping cranes have snow-white plumage with black wing tips and a red patch on the face that extends from the forehead to the cheek. Whooping cranes mate for life.
“Whoopers” once wintered in Florida, but hunting and habitat loss eliminated the Florida population by the 1920’s. By the 1940’s the entire species was on the verge of extinction, with only 21 birds surviving in the wild.
Like other migratory birds, whooping cranes learn their migration routes by following older birds – usually their parents. But when the migratory flock dwindles and disappears, as happened with the eastern whooping crane population, the knowledge is lost.
Efforts to establish a migratory population of whooping cranes began during the summer of 2000 when a coalition of government, non-profit and private organizations joined to form the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). 'Operation Migration'
, a non-profit charitable organization works within this partnership.