After spending months at nesting grounds in Canada, the wild flock of endangered whooping cranes is making the return trip to its wintering grounds in coastal Texas by way of the Great Plains. The first wave of migrating whooping cranes has reached our state and Oklahomans can help track the bird's migration path by sharing photographs and sighting details with the Wildlife Department at wildlifedepartment.com.
Their entire journey can take nearly two months, with the first migrating family groups of cranes reaching Oklahoma in mid- to late-October. The birds may touch down in our wetlands or wheat fields for a few days to rest and refuel on crustaceans, other small animals, or grain before continuing on to Texas.
Whooping cranes are North America's tallest bird, standing nearly 5 feet tall. These large, white birds have several distinguishing features, including a "bustle" of feathers over the rump and an extended neck when in flight. Though similar in appearance to the more common sandhill crane, other large, white birds like egrets and pelicans may be easily misidentified as whooping cranes.
In Oklahoma, whooping cranes are most often reported from western Oklahoma, east of Guymon and west of Interstate 35.