Bama Bound: Whooping Cranes are coming home for the winter

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In the past, staff at the International Crane Foundation used costumes to raise Whooping Cranes for release into the wild. This process, called “costume rearing”, was used so that Whooping Crane chicks would not imprint onto humans. Whooping Cranes are being released using a new method called “parent rearing”, in which captive adult Whooping Cranes raise crane chicks until they are ready to be released into the wild. You can see two parent-reared Whooping Cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge!

Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator for the International Crane Foundation informed Bham Now this afternoon (December 15, 2016) that 18 Whooping Cranes have been spotted on the grounds of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.  This week, during the day, up to 12 Whooping Cranes have been seen near the wildlife refuge visitor center/observation building.

In late November and into December, the Whooping Cranes leave Wisconsin and journey south to spend their winter.  Only about 100 Whooping Cranes migrate east of the Mississippi River with 20 to 30 Whooping Cranes calling Alabama “home” for the winter. In total, there are only about 450 Whooping Cranes in the wild, making them one of the rarest birds in North America.

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Photo by George Lee

How can you help the Whooping Cranes in Alabama?

Support the International Crane Foundation’s “I Give a Whoop” campaign.

Visit the “I Give a Whoop” website.  Take the pledge, and spread the word about this very precious and rare bird that needs our protection in Alabama.  Feel free to contact Lizzie Condon, the International Crane Foundation’s point person on the ground here in Alabama. She has a “toolbox” of projects that can help you and your community protect and save the Whooping Crane.  Lizzie can be reached at

Two additional items – go see the Whooping Cranes in person at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge which is open daily between 9-5 until the end of February. Also, don’t miss the annual Festival of the Cranes at Wheeler on January 14-15.


Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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