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Rarest Crane in December’s Spotlight at Homosassa State Wildlife Park

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on November 29, 2018

Sounding a like a piercing trumpet, the “ker-loo ker-lee-loo” call of Levi and Peepers, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s resident whooping cranes, can be heard for more than two miles in the crisp air. During the month of December, the park will highlight whooping cranes through focused displays and a special program.

Whooping Crane Presentation December 20

Enthusiasts Wanda Easton and Jo-Anne Bellemer will present an informative program about the rarest crane in the world: whooping cranes. The one-hour program will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, December 20 in the Florida Room at the park’s Visitor Center on U.S. 19. Both presenters have an extensive background working with whooping cranes, including hand-rearing releasable chicks, public education, and in-flight participation with Operation Migration. Learn about conservation efforts and how you can help these unique birds.

Whooping Cranes measure over four feet tall. Image courtesy of Joe Dube.

Measuring at over 4 feet tall, the whooping crane is North America’s tallest bird, also boasting an impressive 7-foot wingspan. The whooping crane is considerably larger than the more common sandhill crane, which is frequently observed feeding in marshy areas throughout Citrus county during their annual migration. The whooping crane’s distinctive white plumage is accented with black primary feathers on the wings and a bright red crown on the head, differing from the grey body plumage of the sandhill crane.

Whooping cranes are the most endangered crane in the world. Image courtesy of Joe Dube.

In addition to their distinctive call, these cranes have quite the display ritual to attract mates. Both male and female birds perform a “dance,” leaping off the ground while bobbing their heads and extending their wings in an elaborate display of white feathers and long legs. Visitors to the wildlife state park often observe our whooping cranes giving this very display during the Spring breeding season.

Whooping cranes are one of the most endangered birds in North America and are the most endangered crane in the world. According to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, the current estimated population of migratory whooping cranes is 102 birds (as of November 1, 2018), which is part of the estimated 400 birds in North America.

28th Annual Celebration of Lights December 19-26

Visit the Wildlife Park December 19-26, except Christmas Day, to experience the nightly Celebration of Lights. Image courtesy of Joe Dube.

One of Citrus County’s favorite holiday traditions, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park host the 28th Annual Celebration of Lights, featuring Sebastian Hawes’ Spectacular Synchronized Light and Sound Show along with nightly entertainment. The event begins on Wednesday, Dec. 19 and runs nightly through Christmas Eve, Monday, Dec. 24, and again on Wednesday, Dec. 26. The park will open at 5:30 p.m. on these evenings and remain open until 9 p.m. The Celebration of Lights will be closed on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 25.

Nightly entertainment will be held at the Celebration of Lights. Image courtesy of Joe Dube.

A donation of $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 through 12 is suggested. Children age 2 and younger are admitted free. Parking is limited, arrive early! Tram transportation to the West Entrance on Fishbowl Drive is available from the park’s Visitor Center located on US19.

The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park appreciate the event sponsorships of A-Rock Electric, Citrus County Chronicle, Crystal Motor Car Company, The Royal Dalton House, Cody’s Roadhouse of Crystal River, Kane’s Ace Hardware, Walmart of Homosassa, Lowes of Inverness, Citrus 95.3 FM, Classic Hits 96.7 FM, and WWJB 1450AM.

For more information, contact the park office at 352-628-5343, Monday though Friday.

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