WASHINGTON, July 5 (UPI) -- North America's tallest bird, the statuesque whooping crane, is once again in residence at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, officials said.
After an 88-year hiatus, a whooping crane can once again be seen by visitors to the Bird House at the zoo in Washington, a Smithsonian release said Tuesday.
An 11-year-old, 5-foot-tall male whooping crane named Rocky has come to the park from Homosassa Springs State Park in Florida, the release said.
"It is an honor for the National Zoo to once again exhibit this magnificent species," Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoological Park, said. "Although most people have heard of whooping cranes, very few have had the privilege of seeing one in person. We are thrilled to have Rocky here as an ambassador for his species."
Just eight other zoos in the country exhibit these birds.
By 1938, hunting and agricultural expansion had reduced wild whooping crane populations to an estimated 21 individuals, so zoos, research centers and nature preserves acted quickly to curtail the threat of extinction.
Today, U.S. whooping crane populations are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which said 407 whooping cranes reside in breeding centers and protected nature reserves in the eastern and midwestern United States and Canada, while another 167 individuals are in human care.
"Their remarkable population recovery and subsequent reintroduction is one of the greatest conservation stories in North America," Ed Bronikowski, senior curator at the National Zoo, said. "Thanks to the continuing efforts of many, this species is not going extinct anytime soon."