Main Content

Measuring an impressive 1.5 m, Whooping Cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They have a white body with a red and black head and black-tipped wings.

Weight: 6.4 to 7.3 kg (14 to 16 lb). Height: 1.5 m (5 ft).

Report Whooping Crane sightings to or the Whooping Crane Hotline: (306) 975-5595

Whooping Cranes nest in and around the north-east corner of Wood Buffalo National Park. Non-breeding Whooping Cranes use a much wider area for several years before breeding in and around Wood Buffalo National Park.

Whooping Cranes winter in southern Texas and arrive on their breeding grounds in the NWT in April and May. During fall migration, they spend up to eight weeks in Saskatchewan.

Range map information

Whooping Cranes nest in shallow ponds that contain bulrush or sedge, and that are separated by narrow forested ridges. Whooping Cranes usually lay two eggs in a nest consisting of a pile of vegetation in shallow water. Usually only one of the chicks survives to fly south in September.

Whooping Cranes eat small fish, amphibians and other animals, insects, roots, berries and grain.

Whooping Cranes are able to fly non-stop for up to 10 hours, covering distances of 750 km.

Whooping Cranes almost went extinct in the 1940s due to habitat loss in their prairie breeding grounds and overharvesting by settlers. Recently, the population has been slowly increasing. From 21 cranes in the early 1940s, the nearly 850 Whooping Cranes in North America today are descendants of only three family lines.

The population that nests in and around Wood Buffalo National Park is the only naturally occurring and self-sustaining population in the world. The population is around 500 birds.

Summer 2021 was the first time since conservation efforts began that over 100 Whooping Crane nests were counted, with at least half the nests having surviving chicks.

Potential threats to Whooping Cranes in the Northwest Territories include habitat loss and degradation, disturbance on breeding grounds (from aircraft flights, human foot traffic and ATV traffic), and predators on breeding grounds (black bear, wolverine, grey wolf, red fox, mink, lynx and ravens). Accidental shooting and collisions with power lines are also potential threats.

COSEWIC assessed Whooping Crane as Endangered in 1978, 2000 and 2010. Whooping Crane was listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. Critical habitat (meaning the habitat needed for survival or recovery) is identified and protected under the federal SARA in Wood Buffalo National Park. The SARA also provides protection for individual Whooping Cranes and their residences. A national recovery strategy for Whooping Crane is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registryand includes critical habitat identification. 

Whooping Cranes and their nests are also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Whooping Cranes are internationally protected from trade in live birds or bird parts by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

South Slave