Journey Across Florida: Species Spotlight

Happy Sunday, friends, and happy last weekend of January! I spent my weekend camping in the cold and rain preparing for the next stop on our Journey Across Florida, but for now let’s finish out the month with a loud WHOOP!

Whooping Crane Stamp

Wait…what?

That’s right, this month’s species spotlight is the whooping crane (Grus americana). The whooping crane is an endangered species in North America. At one point, in the 1940’s, its population declined to only about 15-20 birds. Since then, the population has rebounded to approximately 800 individuals, but still remains endangered.

The cranes are tall white birds with long legs, a long neck, and an impressive wingspan (about 7 1/2 feet). Adult whooping cranes are white with red markings on their face and black legs. Whoopers are known for their bellowing call.

You can usually find whooping cranes browsing for food in shallow, grassy wetlands, or in coastal marshes and estuaries. No wonder the whooping cranes find themselves at home during the winter at St. Marks.

Twenty-five years ago, some ingenuitive folks came up with the idea to lead the cranes along their migratory route from Wisconsin to Florida with an ultralight . The first flight took place in 2001 and continued until 2015 when the program was cancelled.

Whooping Crane Watercolor painting

Fortunately, it appears that some of the whooping cranes continue to find their way to Florida, including St. Marks NWR for the winter. On December 6, 2018, radio transmission verified that three whooping cranes returned to the Refuge. Since then, volunteers had visual confirmation that Henry, Patty, and Johnny, the whooping cranes, are back at the Refuge!

I painted a whooping crane and prints of it and some of my other St. Marks feature paintings will be available on my Etsy account at the end of the month. The original will be coming with me to Chain of Parks in Tallahassee, Florida this April.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to continuing our Journey Across Florida together!

xo


Information sourced in part from All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Orinthology); Operation Migration (operationmigration.org); Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.