Wild Whooping Crane Hatchling Announcement

Hello, everybirdie! Great news out of Louisiana: the first wild whooping crane (Grus americana) hatchling since World War II has hatched! It may be a baby step towards the goal of reintroducing the whooping crane to Louisiana, but one small leap for this little crane may prove to be a great flight for birdkind!

Ahem. Now that the corny puns are over (I think...), here's some further background information. Wild whooping cranes began to vanish from Louisiana during the 1800s due to overhunting and habitat destruction. Once abundant throughout the state, by 1941 there were only twenty-four remaining whooping cranes in Louisiana, by 1945 there were only two, and by 1950 the whooping cranes had disappeared completely from the state. The last hatchling recorded in the wild hatched in 1939.

While the whooping cranes may have seemed doomed, they were given a second chance thanks to the 1966 Endangered Species Preservation Act, which gave them federal protection. In 2011 the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) teamed up with the federal government to reintroduce whooping cranes to Louisiana over the course of fifteen years. That year the state released the the first ten captive-bred juvenile whooping cranes into the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, and new juveniles have been added each year.

Nowadays, the whooping cranes have spread to the nearby Audubon Louisiana’s 26,000-acre Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary, but the troubles are far from over. Already five whooping cranes have been poached, which is a big deal due to the small number of birds in residence and slow breeding habits. Nevertheless, this baby whooping crane is a hopeful sign that perhaps one day the whooping cranes will once again be self-sustaining in the state of Louisiana.

To those who live in Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries requests the following:

  • "Anyone encountering a whooping crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report their sighting to LDWF ([1])."
  • "Anyone witnessing suspicious activity involving harassment or shooting of whooping cranes is advised to report that information to LDWF’s Enforcement Division by calling 1-800-442-2511 or using the tip411 program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions. To use the tip411 program, citizens can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the "LADWF Tips" iPhone app from the Apple iTunes store free of charge. Citizen Observer, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender."

Sources include Audubon, State of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and National Geographic.