Standing at almost five feet, the Whooping Crane is the tallest North American bird. Perhaps one of the most dramatic conservation efforts has been the struggle to save these magnificent birds. Although the species has been brought back from the edge of extinction, it remains on watch lists and one of America’s top ten most endangered birds. Beginning in the late 1800s, the species declined rapidly due to collecting, shooting, and loss of habitat. In 1941, only about 20 Whooping Cranes were found in the wild. After being included on the Endangered Species List in 1967, captive breeding has rebuilt the population. The Whooping Crane Recovery Team estimates that in early 2006 there were 340 birds in the wild and 135 in captivity. The remaining wild population breeds in Canada and winters in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. To reintroduce the Whooping Crane to its eastern range, dozens bred in captivity have been released in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and are led by ultralight aircraft to winter in a Florida wildlife refuge. Due to the bird’s small population, damage caused by any local disaster could destroy the entire wild population. A small flock in central Florida was harmed by recent hurricanes. Their survival is menaced by the loss of wetland habitat in their wintering grounds and on their migration routes. The reduced lithograph of the species in volume 5 of the octavo edition of The Birds of America is also exhibited in Part II of The Complete Flock.

[Caption for comparative figure:] Audubon, <i>Bachman’s Warbler (</i>Vermivora bachmanii<i>)</i>, ca. 1833, 1863.18.12 [with Maria Martin] John James Audubon (1785–1851) <i>Whooping Crane (</i>Grus americana<i>), Study for Havell pl. 226</i>, 1821–22; 1829–33

[Caption for comparative figure:] Audubon, Bachman’s Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii), ca. 1833, 1863.18.12 [with Maria Martin]
John James Audubon (1785–1851)
Whooping Crane (Grus americana), Study for Havell pl. 226, 1821–22; 1829–33
Watercolor, oil, gouache, graphite, white lead pigment, black ink, and pastel with selective glazing on paper, laid on Japanese paper; 37 1/4 x 25 3/4 in. (94.6 x 65.4 cm)
Purchased for the Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon, 1863.17.226

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