Bobby’s Bama: Whooping Cranes wintering at Wheeler

Whooping Cranes are wintering at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge through February.
Whooping Cranes are wintering at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge through February.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The rare Whooping Crane is "wintering" at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.  The bird is one of the largest, flying birds in North America and is on the endangered species list.

Most of us have only seen them in pictures. That's because they are so rare.  Less that 20 existed in 1937.  That decline is said to because of a loss of habitat, wetlands.

There are recent efforts, like Operation Migration, where the birds follow a plane and learn the migration route.

"We've been so blessed.  We've had three whooping cranes that have spent the entire winter here at Wheeler at our visitor center," said Wheeler's supervisory park ranger, Teresa Adams.

And that has drawn people to the observation tower at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, just trying to get a glimpse of the rare birds.

"They showed up with a group of Sandhills on December 2nd," said Adams.

They are part of a "raise and release program" - aimed at increasing the population.

All the recent rain may have been bad for humans, but it's increasing the population of all fowl at Wheeler.

"We have up to 50,000 ducks and a couple thousand geese, different species of geese.  The viewing here at the observation bin has been incredible," she said.

All these birds need to keep a watchful eye in the sky for a predator.

"We've had a couple of adult bald eagles that would come through daily.  They make an appearance along the pond at the observation building and they frighten the ducks up, but it's always a thrill to see a bald eagle," Adams said.

The Whooping Cranes are expected to stay here through February. It's a yearly visit in Bobby's Bama.

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