Science: No More Minuets

Last week, the National Audubon Society's Robert Allen was starting an all-winter job: watching whooping cranes. At Aransas Wildlife Refuge, Texas, he would study their daily lives, their feeding habits, what made them happy or unhappy. He wanted to know everything about them, for the whoopers are on the edge of extinction. Fewer than 100 remain, and the flock is shrinking fast.

A hundred and twenty-five years ago, the whoopers, pure white with black wing tips and four feet tall, nested in the Middle West. Early settlers told of their "air circuses." Spreading seven-foot wings, they would dance in airborne minuets, circling,...

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