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Mississippi sandhill crane

The Mississippi sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pulla) was historically found in a continuous population in Georgia and Florida and as separated populations along the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama [1]. It was so plentifully in southern Louisiana in the late 1880s that it was considered a farm pest. It was extirpated from Louisianna by the 1910s and from Alabama by the 1960s. It is currently found only on the 7,813-ha Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in southern Jackson County, Mississippi.

By 1929, the total population was about 75 birds [2]. By the time the crane was placed on the endangered species list in 1973, about 40 birds remained. In 1975 critical habitat was designated and the 7,813 acre Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge was established. The first federal recovery plan was completed in 1976. The U.S.G.S. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center began releasing captive raised birds into the wild flock in 1981 [4]. The wild population increased steadily from 33 birds in 1989 to 135 birds in 1993 [2]. Despite extensive damage to the Refuge, the species survived Hurricane Katrina with minimal short-term mortality [3]. The December 2005 population was estimated at about 120 birds.

[1] USFWS. 1991. Mississippi Sandhill Crane Recovery Plan. U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 42pg.
[2] Gee, G.F. and S.G. Hereford. Mississippi Sandhill Cranes. U.S. Geological Service website (http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/noframe/b157.htm) visited December 28, 2005.
[3] Hereford, S.G. 2005. Personal communication with Scott Hereford, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, December 2005.
[4] Noyes, S. 2005. Mississippi Sandhill Crane and PWRC. Volunteers - Friends. Friends of Patuxent 16(9).

Banner photo © Phillip Colla