The first sightings of the endangered whooping crane are being reported along the Texas coast.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is reminding residents to be aware of these rare birds as they move across the state.
Whooping cranes are the tallest, rarest birds in North America and have a population of around 506.
Starting in their Canadian breeding grounds in Alberta's Wood Buffalo National Park, the whooping cranes make a 2,500-mile trip to the Texas coast every year.
The first family group of the season was seen by Wade Harrell, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Whooping Crane Coordinator, at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
The family consisted of two adults and a juvenile.
Whooping cranes are sometimes found in mixed flocks with sandhill cranes, which are gray and slightly smaller. The TPWD are urging hunters to be extra vigilant when hunting sandhill cranes this season.
The USFWS is encouraging landowners to also consider providing freshwater on their properties to aid the birds during their migration and wintering period.
The public can help track whooping cranes by reporting sightings to TPWD’s Whooper Watch, a citizen-science based reporting system that tracks whooping crane migration and wintering locations throughout Texas.
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Christopher Howley covers entertainment and community news in South Texas. Support more coverage like this at Caller.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Whooping cranes are slowly making their way to the Texas coast