Three Whooping Cranes in their Louisiana habitat wild files whooping cranes

feature wild files: whooping cranes of louisiana

2011 • Louisiana

In the early 20th century, North America’s whooping crane population experienced a devastating decline driven by several factors:

  • Prairie and marsh habitats converted to farmland
  • Unregulated hunting

In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) established the whooping crane reintroduction program with support from two key partners:

  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Chevron
two american endangered whooping cranes
an endangered species, whooping cranes mate for life and share parenting duties.
one endangered Whooping Crane in the state of Louisiana
by 1950, only one whooping crane was known to exist in the state of louisiana.
To sustain a population of about 120 individuals and 30 productive pairs for 10 years without additional restocking.

actions taken

LDWF started a new wild population of cranes in Louisiana by releasing a “cohort” of 10 juvenile cranes.

"Cohort" is a term that refers to several young cranes assembled without parents to socialize together so they will thrive as a group.

Juvenile markings: White with patches of cinnamon brown

They continued to introduce a new cohort of juvenile cranes each year with the help of other partners.

Satellite transmitter equipment and associated communications costs for tracking:

  • The cranes’ movement
  • Habitat selections
  • Adaptive behavior adjusting to life in the wild

Public outreach campaign (billboards, TV and radio) designed to alert the public about:

  • The species
  • How to observe them from a distance
  • How to report any disturbances to the bird

Lesson plans, classroom tools, and educational workshops for Louisiana middle and high school teachers about endangered species and LDWF’s conservation programs.

Adult whooping cranes are the tallest bird native to North America. Adults are easily identified by their black-tipped wings, red head and black facial markings.




lifespan in the wild







up to 5


whooping cranes are omnivorous

summer diet includes:

whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - frogs


whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - fish


whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - rodents


whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - small birds

small birds

whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - berries


summer diet includes:

whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - crabs

blue crabs

whooping crane eating winter and summer diets - clams


wild files - results icon
LDWF received support and cooperation from many landowners and farmers whose properties are frequently visited by the cranes.

April 2016 brought the first verified hatching of a whooping crane chick in the state since 1939.

In 2017, Audubon Nature Institute began to provide a significantly increased number of crane chicks raised at their rearing facilities to supplement both the migratory and non-migratory whooping crane populations in Louisiana.

As of 2018, LDWF has introduced 125 juvenile whooping cranes to the Louisiana ecosystem, and seven wild-hatched chicks have fledged successfully.  

Video: See how LDWF biologists introduce juvenile whooping cranes to their new home in Louisiana.

our actions were consistent with our goal to
conserve biodiversity:
we strive to avoid or reduce the potential for significant impacts on sensitive species, habitats and ecosystems

Wild Files is a series on that spans the world to cover interesting examples of how we deliver on our commitment to environmental stewardship.

Published: October 2018