Be River Proud

Bays & Estuaries

Protecting the Whooping Crane

Four whooping cranes along the San Antonio River

The San Antonio Bay plays an important role in the holistic function of our continental ecosystems and species. It is located in the North American Flyway and is a habitat for migratory birds such as the Whooping Crane.

The Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane is one of the rarest bird species in North America. Standing up to 5-feet tall with a wingspan of up to 7.5-feet, they are also the largest bird in North America. A population of Whooping Cranes migrates from Canada to the bays and estuaries near San Antonio Bay every year.

Whooping Cranes were at one time near extinction. In 1941, there were as few as 16 left.  Recovery efforts have expanded their population considerably. In recent years, their population estimates exceed 500 birds.

Check out this map to view areas near the San Antonio Bay designated as parks, USFWS Critical Habitats for Threatened and Endangered Species and National Heritage Institute Wetlands. All of these efforts are vital for the recovery and sustainability of this precious species. Click the map to explore more.

Whooping Crane interactive map


Important River Authority Partnerships

The River Authority engages with numerous partners at the state, local and federal level to foster understanding that healthy waters upstream contribute to healthy waters downstream, where the Whooping Cranes and many other species rely on a clean habitat for survival.

Whooping Crane's Food

Whooping Cranes’ primary food supply in the estuary are Blue Crabs and the small, red wolf berries. When these foods are readily available, the Whooping Crane can store the energy needed to fly north in the summer.  Blue Crab populations thrive on highly variable levels of salinity in the estuary. However long periods with a lack of fresh water inflow may negatively impact the population. Like many natural residents of the estuaries, Blue Crab can also be negatively affected by pollutants, over fishing, and land development.

A Whooping Crane with fish in its mouth