Whooping and Dancing
The whooping crane is named for its loud "whooping" call. You can hear it for up to two miles! This amazing bugle sound comes bellowing out of the bird's long beak and 5-foot-long trachea! Cranes use their call to signal danger, to defend their territory, and to court potential mates.
Adult whooping cranes look a lot like Wisconsin's native sandhill crane. Whooping cranes are the tallest bird in North America standing at 5 ½ feet tall. Adult whoopers have an amazing wingspan of 10 feet. They have pure white plumage (feathers) with black wingtips, black legs and feet, black facial markings, with a bare patch of red skin on their head. Males weigh about 16 pounds and females average 14 pounds. First-year chicks also have black wingtips, but their body feathers are light brown and white.
Young birds hang together in a "bachelor" or singles flock until they are 4 or 5-years old. They usually meet their mate on the wintering grounds. Whooping cranes mate for life and can live about 25 years. When nesting, a pair of birds pick a territory. They perform a fancy and elegant courtship dance, then mate. Females usually lay two eggs and both the male and female birds incubate the eggs. Incubation takes about 30 days. Even though both eggs may hatch, only one chick usually survives to reach fledging age when the chick has flight feathers. When bred in captivity, all eggs are usually incubated, and most of the time they all survive.
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