These are great birds. They stand 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of over 7 feet. They are the tallest birds in North America and fly with both their neck and legs extended. The whooping crane in flight is an absolutely magnificent sight.
The best way to see the cranes is to take a tour boat that goes up the Intracoastal Waterway and slips into the backwaters of the refuge's wetlands. The cranes feed on blue crabs and wade along water's edge grazing for them.
If you are lucky the boat will be able to get close to where the cranes are wading. If you are lucky. This year we were not so lucky. There were plenty of cranes to see, but, alas, they were always "over there," and over there was always a couple hundred yards away. As a result my photos are less than wonderful. Even with my longest lens the cranes did not fill the frame. But there are only some 400 of these elegant birds in the whole world, so I suppose any photo is special.
In the photos below the first two photos show a juvenile which has a rusty coloring on its head and tail. When born in the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada last summer, the chicks were almost totally cinnamon or rusty in color. While two eggs are usual, typically only one chick survives. You can see the common family unit in the first photo in the gallery. By the time they arrive back in Canada in late spring the juveniles will have separated from their parents.