Crane chick is good news

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 15, 2016

Louisiana got some good news this week when the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the birth of a whooping crane.

This is the first time a whooping crane has hatched in the state since 1939.

Wild whooping cranes used to live in Louisiana, and since 2011, federal and state officials have been trying to re-establish a flock, so the birth this week is a small bit of success after years of effort. Considering that there are only an estimated 600 or so birds even alive, this one chick is good news for bird conservationists around the region.

For whatever reason, whooping cranes are notoriously difficult birds to breed, and in fact it’s likely there were never great numbers of whooping cranes in the wild. The National Wildlife Federation estimates there were only 15,000 to 20,000 birds alive prior to human interference, but by 1941, there were only 15 birds left, and from that single Texas flock, the species has rebounded to what we have today.

If you haven’t seen a whooping crane, they’re tall for birds. They stand about five feet high, making them the tallest birds in North America and they have a seven-foot wingspan. They’re mostly white birds, and they live in Southern marshes during the winter and summer in more northern climes.

As a child growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, many a field trip was spent visiting the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the home base of that original 15-bird flock from 1941. To be honest, I never thought they seemed terribly majestic, standing out in the marsh grass waiting to spear small fish, and they never seemed as pretty as, say, even a common hummingbird.

Nevertheless, we should take comfort in the birds’ slow, steady return and Louisiana should take pride in its part in the process. The loss of any species is lamentable of course, but conservation does more than benefit some birds. The marshy coastal areas preferred by whooping cranes also happen to be some of the most important natural defenses against hurricanes and coastal erosion, and when we protect those spaces and save them from development, we protect our cities and towns inland. As with so many other conservation efforts, we’re finding that by protecting wildlife, we’re also protecting ourselves. Any way you look at it, the crane chick is good news.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301, or email him at