Birb Life

Are You on Whooper Watch Yet?

You, yes you, can track and record whooping crane sightings in Texas.

By Gwendolyn Knapp November 18, 2020

A whooping crane indulging in a crab feast.

They’re baaaaack. Endangered whooping cranes are currently migrating to our state’s coast, and the bird pros at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are reminding everyone to be on the lookout for these impressive beauties as they move through the state.

Thankfully, the TPWD’s Whooper Watch, a citizen-science-based reporting system that tracks the birds’ migration and wintering locations, makes it easier than ever to find out where the whoopers are. Folks can download the iNaturalist mobile app or to spot the birds' whereabouts—big hint: Many are already at the Aransas seashore, but they won’t all be there until December—and to report any they spot in the wild.  

Whooping cranes are the tallest, rarest birds in North America, but their population is currently at only about 506. Each year they make a 2,500-mile journey from their breeding grounds in northern Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park to the coastal marshes of Texas—it takes about 50 days, and since the first whooper of the season was spotted in the Seadrift area on October 19, that means November is going to be busy for sightings.

Whooping cranes are sometimes found in mixed flocks with sandhill cranes, which are gray and slightly smaller, so if you’re gearing up to enjoy sandhill crane and waterfowl hunting season, please be extra vigilant. With their all-white body plumage and black wingtips, whooping cranes may also resemble snow geese, which are much smaller and have faster wing beats. This video details the differences between snow geese and whooping cranes. You can also find more info about whoopers’ various doppelgängers, including the American white pelican and great egrets, right here.

Happy birding, Houston. 

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