Among the 15species of cranes, the whooping crane is one of the most seriously endangered. With a 7.5-foot wingspan, the whooping crane is larger than the much more common North American sandhill crane. Like other cranes, the whooping crane is a long-necked, long-legged bird that inhabits prairies and marshes. Its long, powerful bill is used for killing snakes, frogs, and other small animals. Adults have completely white plumage, except for black primary feathers on the wings, black legs, and bare, red areas on the head.
These cranes are known for their loud, whooping cries, which can be heard as the birds migrate between winter and summer homes. Whooping cranes formerly occupied widespread breeding areas in Canada and the northern United States, but their numbers have diminished greatly. The bird is now protected by law on its breeding grounds near Great Slave Lake in Canada, on its wintering grounds in the Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, and all along its migration route.