29¢ Black-necked Crane and Whooping Crane
Issue Date: October 9, 1994
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Banknote Corporation of America
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Perforations: 10.8 x 11
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
In 1994, for the first time ever, the United States and China released a joint issue. Symbolizing the two countries’ cooperative efforts in wildlife conservation, the stamps feature two of the world’s rarest birds – the North American whooping crane and the Chinese black-necked crane.
Cranes are wetland birds with long legs and necks. Fifteen species live in nearly every part of the world – only South America and Antarctica do not have any cranes. China has eight different species, six of which are endangered. The black-necked crane is one of the most endangered species, with only about 5,500 surviving. One of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane’s habitat is protected by conservation efforts and today more than 250 of these graceful birds exist in the wild.
For the stamp designs, both countries agreed to adopt the art of Zhan Gengxi from China, and the layout and typography of U.S. designer Clarence Lee. One of China’s foremost nature artists, Zhan’s work hangs in the Great Hall of the People and in the Zhong Nan Ihai, the equivalent of the White House. Lee’s previous postage stamp designs include the Year of the Rooster and the Year of the Dog New Year stamps.
There are 15 species of cranes worldwide, but only two are native to North America – the whooping crane and the sandhill crane. The tallest bird in North America, the whooping crane stands up to 5 feet tall and has a wingspan that measures between 7 and 8 feet. Also known as whoopers, their loud resonant call can be heard up to two miles away.
Native to the northern United States, whooping cranes migrate south during the winter. In the spring, they return north to their nesting grounds where they build their nests in the shallow water of a marsh or swamp. Together, male and female cranes share the task of raising the young.
Flocks of whooping cranes once nested on the open prairies of the U.S. and Canada; however, as encroaching settlers disturbed their nesting grounds, the birds began to die out. By 1954 only one flock of 21 birds remained.
Today laws protect the whooping crane and its habitat. Having been successfully bred in captivity it is once again beginning to thrive in the wild. But although there are currently more than 250 whooping cranes living in the wild, they still remain one of the rarest birds on the North American continent.