Meet the New 2005 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2005 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 503

Date Hatched

April 23 , 2005



Date Arrived in Wisconsin

June 15

Weight Aug. 31

Permanent Band Colors
Left Leg:

G/W radio USFWS bands


7.0 Kg

Right Leg:


  • 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

Migration Training: A little distracted at ground school at Patuxent, but still got good scores. At the beginning of May Mark said, "#503 and #504 (she later died of health problems) start off great during trike training, but then get distracted and gradually pay less and less attention. These two have been able to walk together in the afternoons, but do not get along well enough to train together. They two seem to be buddies when they are in separate pens." Chick #504 later died of health problems, and #503 was shipped to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on June 15 with the rest of cohort #1.

By July 9, #501, 502 and 503 were flying low and beautifully along the entire length of the runway at flight school in Wisconsin. July 13 the three flew with the trike beyond the end of the runway and even landed again with the trike---real progress!
At mid-September, Cohort 1 was going through a bit of regression after the stress of health exams. Chick #503 often followed #505 on his frequent drop outs. On September 9, all the birds except one tried to leave the pilot at some point during the training flight. The pilots hope the chicks will be excited to follow the trike again soon.
By September 15, this male is the biggest bird in the flock. He's a good flyer, although lately he's been leading other birds away occasionally. He is a dominant bird in the cohort, and he can be distant or aggressive to the handlers.

First Migration South
: Chick #503 left Wisconsin for his first migration on October 14th, 2005. Read day-by-day news about the flock's migration to see what happens.

Here is more news about Chick #503:

Day 1: He returned to the pen and had to be crated and taken to the first stopover. (Chicks 505, 606, 516 and 524 turned back too.)

On November 1 (day 19), #503 dropped out with about 6 miles left. He landed in an agricultural field. Mark Nipper tells more: "This bird had been struggling to keep up for about 10 miles or so. Shortly after #503 landed, I used the radio signals to determine which field the bird was in, but signal became very strange. It kept sounding like the bird was flying for short periods. This happened several times. All of a sudden the signal was back the other way--and a bird was crashing around in a thick hedge row between these two immense farming fields.  Poor #503 was thoroughly tangled up in some pretty nasty vines. He was understandably rather upset about it.  After freeing the bird and getting him out to the field, it became obvious that 503 didn't’t really want to be in the field. He wanted to hide in the tree line. This ended up working out just fine because there was no way that one person (me) was going to get back to the van, get a crate, and return to the bird without it seeing everything.  I placed a vocalizer in a branch of a tree with a clearing of nice moss bedding underneath. The welcoming brood call from the vocalizer made #503 rather happy, and allowed me enough time to get the crate out."
Chick #503 was one of the six that had to be crated Nov. 30 as the flock left Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. He took off, but kept turning back. Pilot Joe said, "#503 kept breaking from the aircraft and leading the others back. I am sure it was the one that mutinied on Brooke originally. Once I found these birds in the air, I would get them on the wing and turn them on course but a bird in the middle of the group would turn away. Then they would all go. When I would catch up with them heading north again, #503 was always in the lead.
" He flew just fine on the next days when the whole flock of 19 flew together.

#503 landed safely with the 19-bird flock on December 13 at the holding pen at Halpata Preserve. The cranes will be moved 26 miles to their final release pen at Chassahowitzka NWR ("Chass") in mid-January after all the older cranes have dispersed from the release pen.

The pilots and ultralights tried to move the birds on January 9. Crane #503 made it to Chass on the third day of trying, January 11. HOME for the winter!

On March 25 the 503s beak was examined by two Disney veterinarians. It appeared that the bird injured its beak several weeks earlier as the beak became caught in some opening, probably in the fence. It caused a serious scrape wound on the maxilla and an overgrown tip of the mandible, but the beak was healing just fine. No treatment was performed.

Spring 2006: Began first spring migration from the "Chass" pen site March 28 with all flock members except 520. This flock of 18 split at roost time on March 28, and fourteen juveniles (501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 512, 514, 519, 523, and 524) stayed together. They probably roosted near the confluence of Turner, Crisp and Wilcox Counties in Georgia. They didn't move the next day. On March 30 they resumed migration and roosted in Hamilton County, TN. The next roosting place was March 31 in Spence County, KY; April 1 in Jefferson County, IN; April 2 and 3 in DuPage County, IL; April 4 in McHenry County, IL. (past Chicago). They are determined to get back to Wisconsin! They flew two days in rain, and in stong headwinds on April 4. On April 5 they resumed migration, stopping in Sauk County, WI--just short of Necedah NWR! Tracker Richard Urbanek was monitoring them the morning of April 6 when they took off. They completed spring migration as they passed the SW corner of Necedah NWR just after noon. (They kept going! They landed, foraged, and roosted that night in nearby Trempealeau County, WI.) In the summer he wandered with some flock mates. He later moved to an area of IOWA, along with #502 and #507.

Fall 2006: Began migration from Winnebago County, Iowa on October 31 with #502 and #507. On Nov. 6, less than a week later, they had successfully migrated to Florida! This was the first unassisted fall migration for these birds.

Spring 2007: Began migration from FL on March 18 (with #502 and #507). They were in Tennessee on 20 March (PTT), and in Jackson County, Indiana the next day. They remained there at least through 27 March. A low precision PTT reading for 502 indicated the group may have roosted in southwestern Michigan on April 1. By April 5 they had arrived back in Wisconsin. Last recorded on May 26. He and his mate were not found in Iowa or southwestern Wisconsin during an aerial search on October 11, 2007.

Fall 2007: #503 and mate #507 were still missing at the end of December.

Spring 2008: On April 20 the remains of #503 and #507 were found in Wood County, Wisconsin. Radiosignals of the two birds had been detected April 7. The mortality site was only 0.5 miles from where the pair had been last been observed in May 2007, an indication that death happened shortly after that observation, and the faint signals from the inundated transmitters had escaped detection.

Last updated: 4/21/08


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