Photo reference from Donna Pomeroy
About Them: Whooping Cranes are the largest birds in North America standing 5 feet tall with a 7 foot wing span. They are a rare bird to see, unless you go to specific locations in Texas or Florida. It is also possible to see a couple mixed in with groups of Sandhill Crane. This species got down to under 20 birds in the 1940’s. Once strict protections were set up the species began a slow recovery. There are now over 700 Whooping Cranes.
Their plight: Historically these birds were hunted for their plumage and their habitat was routinely damaged. That damage was human development; filling in ‘swamps’ goes back far, George Washington made his slaves work through winter moving dirt to fill in the swamp on his land. Wetlands are also the lowest land therefore, prone to pollution from run off or dumping.
Now, these problems still persist, they are still shot illegally sometimes and wetland destruction is still prevalent. Additionally coming back from so few birds their genetic diversity is low making them highly susceptible to a mass death from disease. They also run into power lines during migration unless they are properly marked. There is concern that given their limited habitat with all the cranes in one place, one bad storm could devastate the population.
What we should consider: There seems to be a sudden trend of species seeing a ‘considered success’ by upper government. I think decisions to de-list or step back from recovery efforts are being made in haste. Funding should not be removed from this species for continued recovery efforts. This is a good example of why I began this blog project, the Endangered Species Act is under attack in subtle ways like this. We have to say as a group, we want our money to go to these programs and see our government fund job growth in healthful environmental research. If they are taking this out of our hands federally we have to focus locally with state government. It may seem like a lot of money to help a bird, but these species that suffer under environmental strain are like the age old canary in a coal mine, they are letting us know our habitat is unstable. If we are making is safe for the plants and animals we will be safe too.
Why do we fill in wetlands? This happens across our country. Once a wetland is filled in even if you build it up with structures, these areas are more prone to flooding or if the area is built up enough will cause water to flood surrounding areas. If the land is turned to farming, as they have done in the Central Valley more efforts could be made to make rice be grown where it was wetland. Farmers aid migratory birds by flooding fields to make suitable space for the over wintering birds.
What is being done: The Whooping Crane remains on the Endangered Species List as it is still one of the most rare birds in North America. There are still breeding programs through zoos and protections for their habitat. The concern is felt for the plight of this bird as it is striking, bringing widespread interest.
How to help: Vote for representatives that have priorities towards tackling climate change and keeping our environments healthy.
Continue bringing awareness. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife, land, and waterways. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society or other local conservation group is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]