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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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WHOOPING CRANES. In the 1800s and early 1900s, habitat loss and hunting drastically reduced the whooping crane population. Before human interference, there were believed to be 15,000-20,000 whooping cranes, which fell to an estimated 1,400 in 1860 and then to an all time low of 15 birds in 1941. (1)

The 15 surviving whooping cranes all belonged to one flock that migrated between Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Conservationists worked with local, federal and international governments to protect the flock and encourage breeding. Their efforts paid off slowly as the numbers reached 57 by 1970 and 214 by 2005. (2)

A year-round, non-migratory flock of whooping cranes were introduced in Florida and they became successful. However, the Florida whooping cranes never learned to migrate. (3)

Creating a new migratory flock of whooping cranes required teaching young chicks how to migrate without the assistance of adult birds. The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team used an ultralight aircraft as a teaching tool to show the young whooping cranes how to fly from western Florida to Wisconsin. The program proved very successful and as of October 2009, there are 77 whooping cranes that followed a plane from Florida to Wisconsin and back each year. (4)

Whooping cranes in 2016 were still critically endangered. (4) There were an estimated 600 whooping cranes in the world. (5) One was discovered in a field north of the Northwest Arterial that year in October and released back into the wild. (6)



1. "Whooping Cranes," National Wildlife Federation, Website: http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Birds/Whooping-Crane.aspx

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. "2015: A By-The-Numbers Review of the Year in the Tri-States," Telegraph Herald, January 3, 2016, p. 2