Species at Risk
Why protect the Whooping Crane?
Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the early 1940's. The
loss of whooping cranes as a species would not only have been very sad, but
would also have reduced the biodiversity of wildlife in North America. While
international recovery efforts have been successful in increasing the number
of whooping cranes, these beautiful and unique birds remain endangered, requiring
ongoing protection to survive.
International efforts to increase the whooping crane population have been
ongoing for many years. These efforts include :
- Ongoing protection of nesting and wintering habitats.
- Establishment of a captive breeding program (To start this program, 225
eggs were collected from Wood Buffalo National Park between 1967 and 1996.
Egg collection from the Wood Buffalo flock ceased in 1996).
- Annual surveys and monitoring of nests and chick productivity in Wood
Buffalo National Park of Canada.
- Research on the ecology of the birds’ existing nesting habitat to
help with the selection of new reintroduction sites.
- Establishment of a non-migratory flock in Florida.
- Reintroduction of a second migratory flock (Wisconsin-Florida) using captive-raised
birds. This process included teaching the captive-raised birds to migrate
While whooping crane populations continue to increase under this program,
the whooping cranes are still vulnerable, especially while migrating. Potential
threats during migration include hunters (the whoopers are sometimes mistaken
for other bird species such as sandhill cranes) and power lines. At their
wintering grounds in Aransas, there is a risk of coastal water pollution from
commercial marine traffic.
What is Parks Canada doing to protect the Whooping
The meter-wide nests of Whooping cranes are made
mostly from bulrushes and are built in shallow waters of spruce-encircled
© Parks Canada / WBNPC Photo Gallery
Wood Buffalo National Park protects the nesting grounds of the last remaining
wild migratory flock of whooping cranes. The whooping crane nesting area is
classified as Zone 1 Special Preservation under the Wood Buffalo National
Park of Canada Management Plan. Public access is prohibited due to the extreme
sensitivity of the birds while they are nesting and raising their young.
Park resource conservation staff assist the Canadian Wildlife Service with
ecological monitoring, research, and annual nesting surveys. The park also
promotes the whooping crane in public education programs and nonpersonal media
such as publications and interpretive signs. The Wetlands Interpretive Trail
in the park features information about the whooping cranes and species at
The presence of the whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada
is very special, and is one reason why the park is a World Heritage Site.
The whooping crane nesting area has also been designated by the Ramsar Convention
as a Ramsar site, or Wetland of International Significance.