The trumpeting sound of cranes overhead is a cherished sound of spring in Texas, but as endangered whooping cranes depart Texas this spring en route for breeding grounds in Canada, fewer birds will be making the trip.

According to Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008-2009 was the worst winter on record in terms of bird deaths for the last remaining wild flock of whooping cranes (Grus americana). Stehn is based at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, Texas where the whoopers return every winter. The birds spend summers at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada.

Citizens are being asked to report sightings of whooping cranes in flight by calling toll-free (800) 792-1112, enter 9 to exit voice mail, then enter extension 4644, or email leeann.linam@tpwd.state.tx.us. If whoopers remain overnight in small wetlands, citizens are encouraged to minimize disturbance at the site. Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America. They are entirely white except for a small patch of black feathers and red skin on the face and black wing tips seen only in flight. During spring migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They usually migrate in small family groups of two to five birds, but may share habitats with the smaller, more widespread sandhill crane. More information and images of whooping cranes can be found on TPWDs whooping crane Web page.PHOTOS for news media use showing whooping cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are available on the TPWD News Images Web page in the whooping crane image download group.On the Net: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/?o=whooper http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/news_images/If you would rather not receive future email messages from Tom Harvey, Texas Parks Wildlife, let us know by clicking here. http://vocuspr.vocus.com/VocusPR30/OptOut.aspx?513992x24766x24615x1x2001846x24000x6> Tom Harvey, Texas Parks & Wildlife, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744 United States