Festival to celebrate majestic whooping crane

Feb 18, 2011 | Houston Chronicle by Claudia Feldman | Related Press

If you’ve always wanted to see whooping cranes, some of the rarest birds in North America, now is your chance.

The 15th annual Whooping Crane Festival starts Thursday in Port Aransas, and visitors can observe the large, graceful creatures firsthand.

Each year a wild flock of whooping cranes travels about 2,500 miles from their summer home in Canada to their winter perch at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and the four-day festival celebrates the birds and the people who have helped them survive over the years.

In 1941 the whooping-crane population dipped to an all-time low — some experts say there were as few as 15 — but today there are thought to be about 570 birds in three flocks and five captive breeding centers. Of those, 270 cranes landed in and around the Aransas refuge this year.

The festival features guided boat and bus tours, speakers and workshops. The long-necked cranes will be easy to spot. They are white with black wing tips and crimson crowns. Typically they stand about 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 to 8 feet.

The birds, protected by the Endangered Species Act, usually mate for life.

For more information, call the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce at 361-749-5919 or 800-452-6278, or visit www.whoopingcranefestival.org.

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