Protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1967
The whooping crane is one of the rarest — and tallest — birds in North America. The population was once widespread, but due to hunting and habitat destruction the last migrating flock plummeted to just 15 birds before it was eventually protected in 1967. Today there are only about 500 whooping cranes left in the wild.
Scientists have long recognized the risk that all or most of these birds could be wiped out from a single event such as a hurricane, disease outbreak, toxic spill or prolonged drought.