The original flock of migrating whooping cranes winter along the coast of Texas on the Aransas-Matagorda Island NWR and have reached a record number of 266.
Wintering whooping cranes are all pretty much doing the same thing this time of year--foraging, hunting for blue crab and other delicacies in the salt-marshes, hanging out in families or wandering in bachelor groups. The photo above captures a subadult whooping crane foraging for wolf berries on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. His tattered look is due to molting.
The photos below were also taken at Aransas. The first image is a whooping crane parent and juvenile foraging in an inland pool. The juvenile still has its distinctive cinnamon feathers on his head and neck and his black facial mask is developing.
Another shot of a family on their territory. All the whooping crane families have established territories that they return to each year. The adults will chase away any new arrivals.
Below, a bachelor group of six subadult whooping cranes captured while I was on a boat tour last February. Bachelor groups consist of both males and females. This is one of the ways that young whooping cranes get acquainted after they leave their parents. Whooping cranes must reach four to five years of age before they select their lifetime mate and begin nesting.