Whooping cranes, take a bow.
Port Aransas is gearing up to celebrate the arrival of some of its most famous winter residents, who migrate from Canada to their wintering habitat at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas each year. The 27th Annual Whooping Crane Festival is set for Feb. 22-25, with bird-watching boat tours, lectures, bus tours, book signings, bird identification clinics, and photography workshops.
New this year? A guided kayaking tour through the Lighthouse Trails led by Coastal Bend Kayaks.
The cranes’ story is an inspiring one. The population of whooping cranes, the tallest birds in North America, dwindled to about 20 in the 1940s. Fifteen of those animals migrated between Canada and Texas, and the rest lived in Louisiana. The Louisiana population went extinct, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but the Texas population has since grown to about 800 individuals that migrate from Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
They’re impressive. Adults, with snowy white feathers, black tipped wings, and a red patch of skin on their head, stand up to 5 feet tall. They move with a stately gait and have a loud call. Their courtship ritual includes a sort of dance – jumping, kicking, head bobbing and wing flapping. Their wingspans stretch up to 8 feet and they weigh 15 pounds.
What to expect at the Whooping Crane Festival
More than 1,500 people attended last year’s festival, which raised $50,000 for local conservation efforts and the Port Aransas community. They spotted whooping cranes as well as 125 other species of birds.
Keynote speakers at the 2024 festival include Chris Corpus from the Dallas Zoo, Jace Tunnell with the Harte Institute, and
Dr. George Archibald, founder of the International Crane Foundation. from conservation organizations and nature-related vendors will also be on hand.