Photo: Operation Migration
Meet the New 2003 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2003 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 303

Date Hatched




Date Arrived in Wisconsin


Permanent Leg Bands
 G/R (left) 
W (right)

(Colors changed from original)

  • Read about the naming system, birth place in Maryland, release site in Wisconsin, over-wintering site in Florida and leg-band codes.

Personality and History

Personality Characteristics: Aggressive as a young chick but turned passive in June. Later she got a tenacious attitude back again. The first of the seventeen birds to officially get airborne. Her first short, low flight was on July 1st. She often led the training flights and was a high ranking bird in the social hierarchy of her group. Best buddies with #302. After the pre-migratory health check, she developed a limp that worsened. In early October, the team discovered she had a fractured knee. The break probably occurred during the health check handling, and she had surgery to correct it on October 7. She was reunited Oct. 17 with her flock mates and no aggression took place.

Migration Training: The oldest crane but one of the smallest. Very attentive and the best follower. Usually ran along near the right side of the trike during taxi-training. Might be the lowest-ranking female, but that may change when the whole flock gets combined and works out their pecking order.

Spring 2004:
Began first migration north at 9:33 a.m. March 30, 2004 in a group of eight 2003 flock mates (301, 303, 305, 309, 312, 316, 318, 319). On April 9 the group separated south of Celina, Ohio. Birds 303, 312 & 316 retreated eastward, toward the location they had just left. On April 11 Cranes 303, 312 & 316 were observed feeding in a cornfield in west-central Ohio. They remained until April 24, when the three headed north. On April 25th they continued northwest and encountered Lake Michigan on an unfamiliar side at exactly the same point that the group of five had two weeks earlier. Cranes 303, 312 & 316 remained together in Michigan until they finally figured out how to get around the huge obstacle of Lake Michigan. They arrived in central Wisconsin on July 26 and were discovered near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on July 28, completing their interrupted migration!
Fall 2004: Cranes 303, 312 and 316 left Necedah Nov. 20 and flew to Jefferson Cty., WI. On Nov 22 they were in Cook County, IL. Stayed in LaPorte County, Indiana from Nov. 22 until resuming migration on Dec. 18-20. They roosted in or near Fairfield County, South Carolina, on Dec. 22nd, then moved to Marion County, FL. for several days. They arrived at the Chassahowitzka pen site at midday on Jan. 2nd, roosting that night near the constructed oyster bar in the pen. They were the first HY2003 whooping cranes to return to the Chassahowitzka pen site after fall migration. Spent much of the winter on a horse farm in central FL. Spring 2005: #303, 312 and 316 departed on migration from Marion County, FL on March 20. Will they go back to MI or WI? PTT readings for 312 showed the group roosted in southern Indiana--on the correct migration route--on March 20! The three were reported back in Necedah area March 30. In April she apparently joined #307 and began hanging out with him. (Her radio transmitter is nonfunctional and she cannot be tracked.)
Fall 2005:
Began migration Nov. 17 with #216. They were tracked into northern IL, but their roost site was not determined. No further locations determined until they arrived at their old Florida pen site at Chassahowitzka NWR on December 14 at 2:25 PM! They moved later to a ranch in Pasco County, FL.

Spring 2006: #303 left Florida around March 6 with #216. They spent summer in Wisconsin.

Fall 2006: She began migration Nov. 19 , with #317, made it to NE Illinois that night. They successfully migrated to Florida, where they were in Hernando County until Dec. 19 when they left that location. They visited the Chass pen but haven't been seen since they left there on Jan. 28.

Fake egg placed in nest. Photo Richard Urbanek.

Spring 2007: Began migration March 5 (with mate #317 and pair #312 and #316). Confirmed back on Necdedah NWR (with mate #317) during an aerial survey on 23 March. Their arrival date was later set at March 15, according to the refuge's automatic datalogger. They deserted their first nest, but nested again and began incubating around May 14. Because #303 and #317 came from the same parents, they are full siblings — brother and sister. To help ensure genetic diversity among the reintroduced wild flock, experts went to the nest about 3 weeks later to swap the siblings' egg with another egg. The male (#317) was sitting on the nest. Both cranes flushed from the area, and ICF staff quickly made the egg switch. They discovered that the pair's egg was not a good one. After several hours had passed and the adults hadn’t returned to the nest, they swapped the good ICF egg with a plaster fake egg. The egg from ICF is due to hatch very soon. It was brought back to ICF for incubation, where the chick will become part of the DAR (Direct Autumn Release) project.

Fall 2007: Crane Pair #303 and #317 joined up with #216 around Necedah NWR on Nov. 20 and they left together on migration on November 22. The pair (303 and 317) were stilll in Marion County, Indiana, at the end of December.

May 5, 2008: failed nest found, good egg collected.
Photo ICF

Spring 2008: Female #303 and male #317 left their territory in Marion County, Florida, on February 5 or 6 and moved to an undetermined location. They were back on their terrritory at Necedah NWR on March 30. Everyone was thrilled to see the pair incubating on a nest beginning on April 9 or 10. A nest check on May 19 found 1 broken fertile egg and 1 intact fertile egg. The good egg was brought to ICF for incubation.

Fall 2008: Female #303 and mate #317 were found in Jackson County, Indiana, on January 1, 2009. They were reported leaving that area on January 3. No further reports and she has a nonworking transmitter so cannot be tracked.

Spring 2009: Reported back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 19. She and her mate #317 were found on a nest April 8! The nest failed but one rescued egg hatched May 8 into chick #909, which would have become a captive breeding bird but it did not survive. By May 21 the pair was re-nesting but abandoned that nest June 7. A rescued egg was incubated in Maryland for the ultralight flock but the chick did not survive. The pair stayed together in the area all summer.

Fall 2009: Female 303 was captured for transmitter replacement on October 20 and released. She and her mate #317 began migration on November 15, a day with clear skies and north winds to help push them south. Ten whoopers began migration the same day. Pair 303 and 317 next appeared when they continued migration on November 30 and landed to roost in Knox County, Indiana, with 216 and 716, 512 and 722, and (DAR) 38-09.

Spring 2010: The signal of #303 was detected on March 17 at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. Even though they had not observed yet, she and her mate (317, whose transmitter does not work) were among the earliest arrivals for the new nesting season. They left their winter territory in Indiana on March 9 or 10. They were reported back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin with an active nest on April 1 or 2! The nest failed and a re-nest on May 3 also failed. Two of their eggs were rescued and hatched at ICF; the chicks were transferred to Patuxent WRC in Maryland. The pair later re-nested for a third time—the lucky one! This late-season nest produced two chicks (W4-10 and W5-10). By the end of June one chick had disappeared but W4-10 survived until July 14 and the cause of death is being investigated. Cranes 303 and 317 make an unusual pair because they are full siblings.

TWO CHICKS hatched in June, 2010! They were the first chicks for pair 303 and 317. June 2010
Photo Matt Strausser, ICF
One chick, W4-10 survived. Here's the family on June 24, 2010.
Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS
On June 17 the parents and chick W4-10 moved to a new spot. Sadly, on July 14 the intact remains of their chick W4-10 were found there. The carcass was sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, to determine cause of death.

Fall 2010: Female #303 and her mate #317 began migration from Necedah NWR on November 17. They wintered in Knox County, Indiana, just as they have previously. The pair was there on Feb. 12 but not when the area was checked on Feb. 17.

Spring 2011: Female #303 and her mate #317 were reported back in the Wisconsin core area by March 21. They were incubating on a nest by April 9 and hatched a chick (W2-11) on May 9! Their chick disappeared when a tornado passed through the area on May 22. They did not attempt another nest this spring.

On August 16, #303 was observed injured near a refuge road bordering her territory. She was brought to ICF for examination. She was emaciated with an infected left hock and was euthanized. Her carcass has been sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison for necropsy. She had last been observed with her mate (#317) on July 6.

Last updated: 8/24/11

Back to "Meet the Flock 2003"

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).