ALBERTA

Calgary Zoo's Whooping Crane Egg Hatches (PHOTOS)

05/31/2013 01:41 EDT | Updated 08/02/2013 05:12 EDT
Calgary Zoo
CALGARY - There's a welcome whooper at the Calgary Zoo's captive breeding facility.

A zoo spokesman says a whooping crane egg has hatched at the zoo for the first time in three years.

Colleen Baird says the chick is strong and showing signs of healthy development.

There were six fertile eggs laid by whooping cranes at the conservation centre this year — five of them will be sent to other facilities in North America.

The idea is to supplement wild populations of the endangered bird.

There are seven breeding pairs at the Calgary Zoo and one non-breeding pair on display.

Canada is home to the world’s largest migratory population of whooping cranes. The birds were close to extinction in the 1940s due to hunting and habitat loss. Only 14 or 15 survived at that time.

The original flocks nest in Wood Buffalo National Park on the Alberta-Northwest Territories boundary and migrate to the Texas Gulf Coast for the winter.

Intense conservation efforts have retored the global population to several hundred birds. In May 2011, there were 78 mating pairs and 279 total birds in Wood Buffalo park.

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LOOK: Calgary Zoo's New Whopping Crane

Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America at 1 1/2 metres and one of only two crane species on the continent. The other is the sandhill crane.

Whoopers have a wingspan of two metres, weigh between six and seven kilograms and live an average of 22 to 30 years.

Adults are pure white except for a bright red crown and a black “moustache”, black wingtips and long black legs. Immature birds are a light brown.

They are named for their distinctive call.

The Calgary Zoo is the only captive breeding site for the birds in Canada.