Based on fossil evidence, whooping cranes used to range throughout the prairies and aspen parklands characteristic of Midewestern North America. Now they are limited to a few protected areas typically in taiga areas for breeding and warm, coastal marshes for overwintering. They migrate between these areas in early fall.
Captive managed and endangered in the wild.
All cranes are omnivorous. Principal foods of the whooping crane on their breeding grounds are mollusks, crustaceans, insects, minnows, frogs, and snakes. In the South, the birds use the brackish bays, estuarine marshes, and tidal flats of the Gulf of Mexico. The cranes feed primarily on crabs, clams, shrimp, insects, small vertebrates, snails, and plants.
Two populations migrating between Northern Canada and the Southern US.
Adult whooping cranes are white with a red crown and a long, dark, pointed bill (immatures are brown in colour). They are the tallest birds native to North America with a height of 1.5 m, about half of which is legs which the cranes use to wade into deeper water to find food.
The destruction of the crane's habitat of marshland (mostly from agriculture) led to a rapid decline in their numbers in the 1900's. In the 1940's their population dipped to only 21 individuals. Because of this, cranes were reared in captivity under the care of humans, sandhill cranes, and their own parents as well. Thanks to conservation efforts of places like the Calgary Zoo, the wild population is up to about 200 individuals (about 500 in total) and on the rise.