How to Identify a Whooping Crane. With the exception of black wing tips (primary feathers) and a black mustache, the body plumage is snow white. Red skin and sparse, black hair-like feathers cover the bird’s crown. Eye color is golden yellow while the bill is yellowish and sometimes tipped with dull green. Visible portions of the legs and toes are black. Juveniles have entirely feathered heads. Juvenile plumage, except for primaries, is whitish and heavily mottled with cinnamon feathers that diminish as the chick ages. The primaries are dullish black. Click here to learn more about Whooping Cranes.
If you encounter a Whooping Crane – or any crane – in the wild, please give them the respect and distance they need. Please do not approach birds on foot within 200 yards. If you are in a vehicle, remain in your vehicle and do not approach any closer than 100 yards. Also, please remain concealed and do not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Finally, do not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph cranes.
Still not sure which species you observed? There are several birds in North America that resemble cranes and are often misidentified at first glance – even by biologists! If you are unsure what species you are observing, click here for images and descriptions of some birds that are commonly mistaken for cranes.
View the Where Are the Whoopers interactive map for the last known location of cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population.
We will share your sighting with our staff and colleagues working to protect Whooping Cranes in Louisiana, Texas and in the eastern United States.