Whooping cranes, take a bow.
Port Aransas is gearing up to celebrate the arrival of some of its most famous winter residents. The 26th Annual Whooping Crane Festival is set for Feb. 23-26, with bird-watching boat tours, bus tours, lectures, bird identification clinics and photography workshops.
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.
More than 1,100 people attended last year’s festival. They spotted whooping cranes as well as 115 other species of birds.
Keynote speakers at the festival include David Newstead, director of the Coastal Bird Program; professional nature photographer Kathy Adams Clark; well-known birder Mikael Behrens; and Dr. George Archibald, founder of the International Crane Foundation. Representatives from conservation organizations and nature-related vendors will also be on hand.
Information on free and ticketed events can be found here.
For more information go to www.portaransas.org.