Whooping Crane

Never more than 10,000 in number, whooping cranes suffered from hunting, marsh destruction, and freshwater diversions, and declined to a record low of 15 to 16 at their winter quarters in the lower Texas coast in 1941. Worldwide crane populations have rebounded to roughly 600 currently, due to captive breeding, hunting bans, and habitat protection, but still are at risk from poaching, genetic bottlenecks, wind turbine and power line construction, and threats from chemical spills, intracoastal canal traffic, and coastal storms.


Narrator: George ArchibaldTitle: A Small TownDuration: 00:04:23Date: February 25, 2008Dr. George Archibald, a noted ornithologist and co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, describes the threats posed to the endangered Whooping Crane, and the various efforts to rebuild sustainable populations and to restore old migration routes, breeding and wintering grounds.Narrator: Jim BlackburnTitle: Water and WhoopersDuration: 00:01:55Date: June 10, 2020Jim Blackburn is an environmental lawyer, planner, and professor at Rice University. He helped form and lead the legal team for the Aransas Project, an effort to secure instream flows for the whooping crane, through litigation under the Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit was triggered by the death of 23 cranes during the drought of 2008-9, more than 15% of the global wild population. Here, he describes how the drought and state-permitted diversions led to the death of cranes.Narrator: David BlankinshipTitle: Between 14 and 16 BirdsDuration: 00:03:01Date: February 28, 2000David Blankinship, who worked as a biologist for the National Audubon Society, Corpus Christi Botanical Garden, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recalls the varied, multi-year efforts to rebuild whooping crane populations. Measures included work to control canal dredging, boat wakes, and oil drilling, as well as research to understand diet and migration - all steps towards protecting the crane's habitat.Narrator: Russel ClapperTitle: That Far GoneDuration: 00:01:09Date: June 20, 1998Russel Clapper, staff for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, recalls losing a rare whooping crane to a gunshot wound in the early 1950s. The loss led to the start of daily patrols to census the highly endangered birds.Narrator: Robin DoughtyTitle: Ode to WhoopersDuration: 00:02:14Date: April 10, 2002Robin Doughty, a poet and geography professor at the University of Texas, reads his verse about whooping cranes in Texas, including two poems, "Aransas Norther", and "Cranes on Pasture Point Road", both drawn from his collection of poetry, "The Whooping Crane."Narrator: Ann HamiltonTitle: PoachingDuration: 00:03:27Date: June 6, 2020Ann Hamilton has worked as Executive Director of the Park People and Houston Parks Board, as the environmental grant officer for the Houston Endowment, and formerly as a trustee of the Hershey Foundation. She has had a long interest in birds, and in that vein has served on the board of the International Crane Foundation and the Aransas Project, supporting efforts to protect and restore the highly endangered whooping crane. Here she tells the 2016 story of a poacher tried in a Beaumont courtroom for killing a whooper.Narrator: Stuart HenryTitle: Base Flow CaptureDuration: 00:02:20Date: June 18, 1999Based in Austin, Stuart Henry was a leading environmental attorney in Texas known for representing landowners and public interest groups on conservation cases. He was particularly active in water-related disputes, including Sierra v. Babbit, the controversy involving protection of endangered species reliant on the Edwards Aquifer spring flows. Here he discusses the heavy dependence of many Texas streams, including the Guadalupe (which feeds Aransas Bay, winter home of the whooping crane), on groundwater supplies.Narrator: Myron HessTitle: Section 11.147Duration: 00:03:45Date: June 8, 2020Myron Hess is an environmental attorney based in Austin who has worked in private practice, as well as at Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation. Throughout his career, he has been deeply involved in legal efforts to protect instream and estuarine flows to support wildlife, such as the whooping crane. Here he tells the story of the first Texas legislation, passed in 1985, to set aside some environmental flows.Narrator: Ilan LevinTitle: Unappropriated FlowsDuration: 00:03:45Date: May 31, 2020Ilan Levin, an environmental attorney who serves as the Associate Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, worked on behalf of the San Marcos River Foundation in their 2000 filing for instream water rights to help support whooping cranes and other elements of the Aransas Bay system. He recalls that the filing was in part spurred by the regulation of pumping from the Edwards Aquifer, which had pressed water developers to seek more surface water from area streams, such as the San Marcos.Narrator: Ilan LevinTitle: Beneficial UseDuration: 00:03:33Date: May 31, 2020Ilan Levin is an environmental attorney who currently works as Associate Director of the Environmental Integrity Project. He recalls the time nearly 20 years ago when he was involved in the effort by the San Marcos River Foundation to secure instream flows for the River, Aransas Bay, and its wildlife (including the whooping crane). While the Foundation's water right filing was pending with the state agency (TNRCC), its director showed the Legislature that the application was legitimate under the water code of the time, leading the State to retroactively change the code, and allowing TNRCC to deny the application.Narrator: Jeff MundyTitle: Water, Wolfberry and CrabsDuration: 00:05:32Date: May 24, 2020Jeff Mundy is an Austin trial lawyer who has volunteered to serve on the boards of the Houston, Travis and Texas boards of the Audubon Society, and has also worked on a number of endangered species cases. Here he recalls the legal challenge to surface water rights and stream flow impoundments that put the rare whooping cranes at risk.Narrator: Andy SansomTitle: GeneralsDuration: 00:04:16Date: July 31, 2023In the early 1970s, Andy Sansom served as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, Rogers Morton. One of his tasks was to learn about activities on Matagorda Island, a Strategic Air Command base at the time, as well as key winter habitat for the highly endangered whooping crane. What he discovered about the Island eventually led to its protection as a National Wildlife Refuge.Narrator: Liz SmithTitle: Citizen-ScientistsDuration: 00:03:18Date: June 10, 2020Dr. Liz Smith served as the North America program director for the International Crane Foundation, based in Rockport. She has been heavily involved in research, education and other efforts to protect the whooping crane. One of her projects worked with volunteer citizen-scientists who analyzed photos, monitored ponds, documented feeding and diet, and helped advocate for protection of crane habitat.Narrator: Tom StehnTitle: Concrete MatsDuration: 00:03:55Date: October 16, 2020For 29 years, Tom Stehn worked as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. During that time, he noticed that erosion of the Refuge along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway was threatening the marsh ponds upon which the endangered whooping crane relied. Here he describes the efforts by volunteers, oil and gas firms, the Audubon Society, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to line the marsh with concrete sacks and mats to successfully protect those ponds.Narrator: Tom StehnTitle: Climate ChangeDuration: 00:05:02Date: October 16, 2020Tom Stehn worked for a generation as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, with much of his effort focused on the recovery of the endangered whooping crane. Fortunately, the crane's winter numbers at the Refuge have grown from 15 in the late 1940s to over 500 in 2020. However, he sees current and future threats from climate change, including sea level rise and the northward movement of black mangroves, as well as coastal residential development.Narrator: Dianne WassenichTitle: Bays as NurseriesDuration: 00:04:33Date: May 28, 2020Dianne Wassenich, who has long served as a trustee and executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation, remembers how she and the group decided in 2000 to apply for water rights to protect estuarine flows for Aransas Bay and the whooping cranes and other wildlife that depend on that freshwater.