Hooping Crane, (today, whooping crane)
Probably never very plentiful even in Audubon's day, whooping crane populations are making a slow comeback due to extensive conservation efforts. In the late 1940s, only about 20 still existed, today there's just over 500. In December, I saw one (a direct release juvenile) at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County in East Tennessee. A coup. Audubon writes:
" While in the Floridas, I saw a few of these birds alive, but many which had been shot by the Spaniards and Indians, for the sake of their flesh and beautiful feathers, of which the latter they make fans and fly-brushes.”
By Audubon the naturalist, from his Ornithological Biography.
Yesterday, I spoke about Audubon's "Birds of America" at Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge. Why is Audubon relevant? Because in addition to his artistic talent, perseverance and derring-do, he was a darn good naturalist. A lot of what we know today about birds, the audacious, often farouche, John James Audubon was the first to put in print.