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

Crane # 516

Date Hatched at Patuxent
(Egg from ICF)

May 28 , 2005



Date Arrived in Wisconsin

July 6

Weight Aug. 31

Permanent Band Colors
Left Leg:

5.3 Kg

Right Leg:

G/W radio USFWS bands
  • 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: Scroll Down for Most Current

Migration Training:Very young and small and cute and clingy at Patuxent. Follows right under the costume or as close to the trike as possible. Screams constantly if not near one of them. During training, he tried to get over the fence to get to the trike.

Arrived in Wisconsin on July 6 with the rest of cohort 2. All behaved as though they had been raised there, and looked very healthy. By July 9, #516 and all the other cohort 2 chicks were following well and running after the trike with great enthusiasm. "In fact," said Mark, "#516 is so keen that we think he wants to fly the trike. He continually hugs up next to the trike, almost getting in the way." By July 21, all the cohort 2 birds followed the trike well, and one of the birds even got off the ground for about 50-60 feet. However, it was hard to tell exactly which bird flew because all of the chicks' uniquely colored and numbered leg bands are so covered with caked-on mud!

On September 9, Cohort 2 finally had a great day. All 8 birds took off from the runway on the first try and never looked back. They flew for about 15 minutes, and stayed with the pilot for the entire flight! What a relief after several days of struggling after the recent health checks.

Chick #516 is much less clingy than he used to be. He's going the opposite way now, gaining independence. He blends in instead of standing out like he used to. He's a very good flyer and follows well. He is mid-level in dominance.

First Migration South
: Chick #516 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 Crane #516's first migration:

The team has watched #516 closely since before migration began. First they noticed a small fracture in his bill. On Day 1 of migration, he did not leave the refuge; he came back to the pen with a limp and swollen foot. (This same foot had been swollen a couple months ago.)
On Day 5 (Oct. 18), #516 took off with 18 other birds behind Brooke's plane. But ten minutes later, he got caught in the wires on top of  the ultralight. Brooke landed immediately with #516 in a cow pasture. The other pilots quickly took over and led the other birds onward to the new landing site in Green County, WI. Brooke examined #516 and decided that the bird was able to continue flying, despite a scratched leg. He took off again with #516, but landed in another field when the bird lagged behind. Then something spooked #516 and he took off again! Brooke took to the air and led #516 to a harvested soybean field. Charlie caught up to Brooke and #516 resting in this field, and #516 finished this leg of the migration stuck in a box on a long, bumpy ride in a motor home. Mark pointed out this isn't a small list of troubles, even for the most hardy birds. "Through all of these misfortunes he may have walked a little funny over to the pen, but he was still the feisty little bird he always has been. This morning [Oct. 19] the little guy looks even better still, and we are all encouraged by his quick recovery."
  But when they next flew (Oct. 23, day 10), #516 did not want to fly. He finally took off with Brooke but broke away after only a minute. The young bird landed in a field and would not be coaxed back up. Joe said, "It may still have been sore--or maybe it just recognized Brooke!" He didn't fly the next time, day 13, either.

#516 is carefully loaded into the tracking van at Benton Co. Mark and Angie will drive him to be reunited with flockmates.
Photo Operation Migration

By Oct 27 (day 14), #516 still was hesitant. Angie arranged for Dr. Barry Hartup to X-ray the bird to see the condition of the wing. By Oct. 31, Angie reports: "For physical therapy, we have been putting a warm compress on his right carpal joint for about five minutes, then work his wing on passive range of motion exercises until his joint loosens up.  During his exercise sessions, we let him out of the pen by himself and run with him to encourage him to fly near the pen.  At first he seemed a little awkward and was reluctant to extend his wing fully, but On Oct. 31 he flew about 100 yards or so 6 or 7 times and looked great. The crew is very encouraged by his willingness to fly, at least around the pen, and we are going to encourage him to fly with the rest of the group on our next leg of the journey once the wind dies down.  For the last 5 legs he has made all or most of the journey in a crate, and we hope that he will soon have the strength and the stamina to keep up with the other birds." 

Therapy: 516 is released from the pen in Benton County to exercise its wings.
Angie and Charlie run along, encouraging the bird to fly, while Chris snapped these photos.

Photos: Operation Migration

November 1: Day 19 #516 circled a few times on take-off, but then landed. He was still reluctant to fly with the flock. He was crated and driven to the Boone County site.

November 2: Day 20 #516 flew ALL THE WAY (55.2 miles!) behind Chris! He was the only bird Chris had, so he received full benefit from the wing's helpful air currents. The next flying day was not until Nov. 11, day 29. He flew the whole 40.6 miles!

November 30: #516 refused to take off with the flock when they left Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. He just landed in the field next to the pen because the swamp monsters were out (trying to scare the birds into taking off with the ultralight). He and five other reluctant cranes were crated and driven to the next stop.

December 13, arrival day! Chick #516 was the one bird who landed early--in a field near the Dunnellon Municipal Airport. He was crated and driven the short distance to the temporary drop-off site at Halpata Preserve.

In the month at Halpata Preserve, the birds were let out of the top-netted pen to exercise their wings. But #516 worried the aviculturalists. He either couldn't (or wouldn't) fly.

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 pen site.

January 9, 2006: Crane #516 didn't fly with the ultralights on the first day of the move. On the second day of trying (January 10), #516 flew but then dropped out. The good news is that he is flying again. The pilots tried again on January 11 to get the remaining cranes over to Chass. All the rest of the birds EXCEPT #516 made it to Chass on the third day of trying: January 11.

January 12: "#516 did not much want to fly this morning," said Mark Nipper. "We went out to the Halpata pensite with all three pilots and an army of swamp monsters. Richard lined up in front of the pen and Sara opened the panels. 516 didn't want to come out on his own so Sara had to herd him out. He did take off behind Richard but then quickly turned away. He headed right for the little spot that he has been landing in for the last few days. But today we were already there with a swamp monster, so he kept flying. But rather than climb over the trees with the planes, he flew through the tops of the trees instead, and landed in a clearing right on the other side. It was pretty scary watching him weave through the branches, not gaining altitude but actually descending. When Sara and I rounded him up, he followed us back to the pen and went right in. He seems happy as can be in there. We will be discussing the situation with the vets and hoping that this bird will still be able to join the flock." He remains in the top-netted pen until doctors decide on a plan for him.

January 18: Team member and crane monitor Mark Nipper reports: "We went to Halpata to let #516 out for some exercise. He was excited to get out of the pen and while he took a few short flights, he wasn't able to fly very high or far, and he looked uncoordinated. It was still rather gusty though, so maybe it was good that he flew at all. We will be moving #516 out to the Chass pen in the next few days. Hopefully, the change of setting, and being back with his buddies will encourage him to fly."

January 20: #516 went to Chass and rejoined the flock. Mark Nipper reports: "We got 516 in the crate just before dawn Thursday morning. Traffic was light, so we made it to the boat launch in good time. . .Once the crated bird was in the boat everything went pretty well. We had to go slowly, and even had to get out and push/pull the boat through a few shallow areas, but it was a smooth and quiet ride. . . At the Chass pen site, #516 came out of the box just fine and looked good on the walk to the pen. He followed us to the pen just fine, and went right in. He has always been a good follower, and easy to get in and out of gates. He looked good in the pen, and none of the other birds seemed too concerned about him."

"A few days later, the top net was removed and the birds were free. Happily, #516 (and others) took off and flew circles around the new area. He looked good in the air! He then attempted to come in for a landing in the pen.....but on the part of the pen that still had some net on top. Oops. When he realized there was something in the way, it looked like he tried to power back, but he just couldn't. As a result, he landed on the top-netting and Mark and Sara had to struggle to get him off." Mark said he seemed fine when they finally got him off. He followed them easily back into the covered pen and then out into the big pen with the open top.

March 12: GREAT NEWS! Mark said, "516 has made marked improvement over the last month. He definitely has the willingness to fly and stay with the group. It is usually hard to spot him in the air now because he is right in with the flock."

Spring 2006: Began migration March 28 in the flock of 18 that left that day. They made it to Turner County, Georgia, but other flock members took off shortly after landing. Only cranes #516 and #522 stayed at this first stop to roost. Despite his earlier wing problems, #516 is doing great! He and #522 were in Meigs County, TN on Mar. 30 and 31. They migrated to Floyd County, IN on April 1. Location unknown April 2 and 3. On April 4 they resumed migration. They were hampered and blown eastward by a strong northwest wind and landed to roost in Decatur County, Indiana at least to May 5. On May 12-13, #516 was reported from a yard and hayfield in Eaton County, MICHIGAN. He was alone. Because of injury, #516 missed a significant portion of the northern part of the ultralight-led migration in autumn 2005. Separated from #522, he is unlikely to complete migration to Wisconsin on his own. Thus, on May 16, the crane team and a small private plane retrieved him from a flooded backyard and brought him home to Wisconsin. Migration complete! By mid-June his limp was barely noticable. He moved to Dane County, WI (outside the core reintroduction area) for most of the summer.

Fall 2006: #516 left Wisconsin on Nov. 19 with #216 and #32-05 (DAR) and made it that night to to SE Indiana. After migrating 5 days in a row, he landed at the Florida pen site at 4:37 pm on November 23!

Spring 2007: Began migration from Marion County, FL between April 21 and 29. (He tied with 509 for the record of staying the latest in Florida before beginning spring migration!) He was reported May 14 in Ohio and June 4 in Michigan, where he remained all summer with Sandhill cranes on farmlands and a sanctuary in Jackson County.

Fall 2007: Migrated from Michigan after November 19 back to Marion County, Florida.

Spring 2008: Wow! He was not reported on his usual summering area in Jackson County, Michigan until July 5. He stayed in Levy County, Florida (about 30 miles north of his wintering area in Marion County) at least until June 24. This bird was tied with #509 for the latest spring departure from Florida, when in 2007 they both initiated spring migration between April 22-28. This year #516 smashed that record and everyone was starting to wonder if he would migrate at all. He showed up for summer in Michigan with sandhill cranes.

Fall 2008: He continued to be reported with sandhill cranes NE of Jackson County, Michigan into mid November. But he migrated south, and was confirmed on his usual wintering area in Marion County, Florida, on December 22. Trackers suspect his transmitter failed after that. He was not observed in any of his usual areas during search flights on January 20, February 4 or March 4.

Spring 2009: No reports in 2009. He usually summers in Michigan and has a lower than average probability of detection.

Fall 2009: No reports in 2009. He usually summers in Michigan and has a lower than average probability of detection.

Summer 2010: Crane: After not being seen or detected since fall 2007, male #516 was removed from the population total and presumed dead.


Last updated: 8/9/10

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