Whooping cranes nearly vanished in the mid-20th century, with a 1941 count finding only 16 living birds.
Since then, these endangered animals have taken a step back from the brink of extinction. Captive breeding programs have boosted their numbers, and successful reintroduction efforts have raised the number of wild birds to several hundred.
The massive whooping crane management effort involves numerous U.S. and Canadian governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, and other contributors. The process even includes using ultralight aircraft to lead young whooping cranes on their first southward migration, from Wisconsin to Florida.
These majestic white birds are the tallest in North America. They live in family groups and frequent marshes, shallow lakes, and lagoons. Cranes feed by foraging with their bills