Whoop It Up!
Photo via Statesman.com
The endangered Whooping Crane, known locally as 'Whoopers', make their epic trek of over 2,500 miles annually from the far-flung reaches of northern Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for their winter home. Pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 1940s by over-hunting and habitat loss, the Whoopers have been slowly but surely rebounding since being declared endangered in 1967. Ongoing conservation efforts worldwide between various partner groups and agencies have successfully assisted in the population increase of this majestic and stately bird.
Standing tall at almost 5 ft. with a wingspan of 7.5 ft., the Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America. Not only is this bird a joy to spot in the wild due to its endangered status, it’s also stunning with a plumage of white feathers and black-tipped wings, crimson crown and dark pointed bill. With the Texas Gulf Coast being the only place in the U.S. where the Whooping Crane can be spotted at close range, birding enthusiasts from around the world flock to the Coastal Bend each year from November to February in attempt to catch a glimpse of this graceful creature.
Fortunately, opportunities abound with guided and self-guided birding tours available. The Coastal Bend is home and host to more than 300 species of birds and likely just as many knowledgeable and enthusiastic birders. At the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, guests have the option of self-guided walking or driving tours around the 114,000+ acre park to spot a Whooper, as well as many other wintering migratory birds. Boating tours, one of the best options for birding throughout our coastal habitat, are offered by local guides, as well.
For a long weekend of birding celebration and festivities, visit The Whooping Crane Festival, hosted by the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce each February. Featuring art, photography, birding tours by land and sea, as well as presentations by world-renowned speakers at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, the Whooping Crane Festival is a true celebration of nature and its infinite beauty—South Texas style.