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

Crane # 311

Date Hatched




Date Arrived in Wisconsin


Permanent Leg Bands
G/W/R (left)
G/R  (right) 
  • 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: He and #310 hated each other and were separated upon arrival at Necedah so they could continue to socialize through fence without harming each other. They got along better later. On 6/23 this crane watched #307 work hard to kill a garter snake--and then he stole it away from 307 and swallowed it whole. Occasionally prefers to wander off into the marsh during training. Has made great progress, after a rough start when he ignored the aircraft and handlers. They spent much time with 311 to improve his performance. Since then he has discovered the wing vortices (air currents that help him fly) and is a great follower.
First Migration South: On day one of the migration south, he turned back to the pen at Necedah and was trucked to the stopover site 302, 310 and 313. On day 2 he kept turning back. Brooke convinced the wayward crane to stick with him, and then the bird didn't want to land!  He kept circling and flying until eventually Brooke and Joe both went to chase him down. Joe caught up and guided the bird to a landing next to the temporary enclosure with the others. Made the entire leg to the 3rd location, but once again was reluctant to land. Missed a total of 86.3 miles (TN).

Acquired adult voice in Jan., 2004.
Spring 2004:
Left Chassahowitzka together with the other 7 remaining chicks on April 7 at 9:10 a.m. They flew until rain stopped them, landing in Jefferson Cty., FL at 3:35 where they roosted that night. Took off April 8 in the group of 8 but a thunderstorm separated the cranes into 3 groups. Cranes #302, 307 and 311 --each now traveling solo--were located by radio signals April 9 in Georgia after each gaining about another 100 miles. On April 10, #311 left his roost in Gwinnett County, Georgia, at 8:55 a.m. and landed to roost in east-central Tennessee at 3:45 p.m. Detected April 14 in KY, April 15 in IN and April 16 in south-central Wisconsin--and April 18 very near Necedah NWR--first of the 2003 chicks to arrive! (He didn't actually return to the refuge itself until May 1.) He then settled in a favorite spot about 12 miles to the south, and only visited the refuge briefly again in mid-May.
Fall 2004: Left Necedah NWR on Nov. 5 with #304 and flew to Kankakee Cty, IL. Still together, 304 and 311 arrived late Nov. 10 in Washington County, Georgia.  On Nov. 18, they were found in Glynn County, Georgia. Verified near McIntosh, Liberty County, GA on November 24th. Next located on Dec. 18 during an aerial-radio search in an area about 14 miles south of crane #317 in southeast South Carolina. Remained there in a Wildlife Management area with #304.
Spring 2005:
Not at the roost site on March 30. Possibly gone on migration with #304. Cranes #311 and #304 joined with chick #412 over Indiana on April 6th! They were tracked into WI, where they were in Sauk County on April 7.
Fall 2005: Began migration Nov. 17 with #301. They later joined in flight with #102, #212, #203 and #317. The group roosted that night in Will County, IL. They flew Nov. 18 to SW of Indianapolis, Indiana.
They were all still at this Marion County, IN stopover site in mid-December. On Dec. 20, a pair of whoopers that might have been #301/#311 were sighted on Colleton County, SC. The pair arrived at the Chassahowitzka pen site on Dec. 22.
They remained in the pen area and made several short flights in the next few days.

Spring 2006: Still in SC on March 23 but this bird (with #301??) may be one of the two reported back in Michigan April 2. This was the same general area occupied by#301 and #318 in 2004 and 2005 before the latter two birds were retrieved and re-released in Central Wisconsin early last summer (2005).

Fall 2006: He was captured in October to have his radio tranmitter replaced. He and mate #301 began migration Nov. 19 and made it to Kankakee County Illinois that night. They successfully migrated to their winter territory in Colleton County, South Carolina.

Spring 2007: Left SC on migration (with #301) on March 24. He and mate and #301 arrived on their territory on Necedah NWR on March 29. Sadly, in September his mate was found dead (apparently killed by a raptor).

Fall 2007: On September 29 male #311 left the territory he shared with his mate (killed September 28) and did not return. His signal was detected from an aircraft (not a tracking flight) on October 3 in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, but no signals were detected during a ground search the next day. Also not found during aerial search on October 10, but was later found with #312 on winter territory in Colleton County, South Carolina.

Photo Colleen Wisinski, ICF

Spring 2008: Crane #311's arrival date is probably the same as mate #311. ICF tracker Colleen reported: On April 8, I was listening to #312 signal, hoping to see her and, especially, her mate, #311. He has a non-functional transmitter. As I was driving along the road, I saw what looked like a Whooping Crane, and then a second one. I took out my binoculars, and sure enough, they were two Whooping Cranes. Then I used my spotting scope to look at the leg bands. I was very excited to confirm #311 and #312 and to see that they were still together and safely back at Necedah."

May 5, 2008

The pair began incubating on a nest around April 16! But the nest, with 1 intact fertile egg, failed in early May. The good egg was collected and brought to ICF for incubation, so all is not lost.


Fall 2008: Began migration (with #312) from Necedah NWR on November 15, as did other first cranes to leave. The pair arrived on their wintering grounds in Colleton County, South Carolina, a week later!

Spring 2009: Began migration from Colleton County, SC, on March 17 or 18 with #312. They were detected in flight in Indiana (by 312's transmitter signal) on their way to roost in Vermillion County, Illinois, on March 21. Biologists detected the signal of mate #312 at Necedah NWR the end of March, so assumed that #311 was also back. A week later #311 was also confirmed. The pair nested but the nest failed on the same day that black flies tormented several other nesting crane pairs off their nests. The pair remained together in the core area all summer.

Fall 2009: Pair #311 and #312 left Necedah NWR on migration November 26. They migrated as a group with several other departing Whooping cranes before landing to roost at an undetermined location(s) in Illinois. The pair was next detected Nov. 29 migrating through Tennessee, where they landed to roost on Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. They were on their previous wintering territory in Colleton County, SC by Dec. 3.

Spring 2010: Pair 311/312 began migration from South Carolina on March 15. They were reported back on Necedah NWR by March 26. On a nest survey flight in early May, tracker Eva suspected and later confirmed a nest by this pairin a remote area of the refuge. The nest was begun sometime between May 9 and 12, and the pair was still incubating as of May 28! On the weekend of June 12-13, Matt Ahrens, Operation Migration pilot and Matt Strausser, ICF tracker spotted a new chick with 311 and 312 while on a nesting survey flight. The pair's second egg never hatched, but chick W7-10 probably hatched June 11. Within a few days the family moved eastward from the nesting marsh to a pool and favorite feeding area of the adults. Unfortunately, the chick disappeared between 3 and 6 July 3 and 6.

Fall 2010: Pair #311 and #312 began migration Nov 17 and wintered on their usual territory in Colleton County, South Carolina.

Spring 2011: Pair #311 and #312 began migration from their South Carolina winter territory after March 4 and were back at Necedah NWR by March 21. They began incubating a nest on April 14. This nest failed May 8 and no eggs were salvaged.

Fall 2011: Pair #311 and #312 migrated to Colleton County, SC for the winter.

Spring 2012: Male #311 was assumed to be with his mate #312 when she was reported on Necedah NWR on March 16. The pair had a nest by April 25, but the nest had failed by May 7.

Male #311 was found dead by Bev Paulan (Wisconsin DNR pilot) during an aerial survey over the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on May 31. His carcass will be examined to determine cause of death.


Last updated: 6/1/12

Back to "Meet the Flock 2003"

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