Meet the New 2007 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2007 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 703

Date Hatched

April 29 , 2007



Date of Photo: June 17, 2006

Egg Source: Calgary Zoo

Permanent Leg Bands

Weight 04/29/07: 150 grams
Weight 05/08/07: 278 grams
Weight 09/05/07: 6.2 kilograms

Left Leg Right Leg


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

Personality and History

Migration Training: He was an eagle-eye from the start, able to pick up the tiniest morsels of food from the carpet. He went on his first walk on May 10 with #702 and 703 tried as hard as he could to be taller than #702—a funny sight! On May 29 he didn't like it when 706 cuddled up to "his" mama (Bev in her costume). He ran over and drove 706 back in the water and away from Mama with a sharp peck to the head! He came to Wisconsin for flight school on June 19 in cohort one, the 8 oldest chicks. By July 24 he was flying strongly beneath the wing of the trike for the entire length of the grass runway, with a few others keeping up with him.

On July 31 the oldest birds of Cohort 1 flew two circuits with pilot Chris, with 703 locked right on the wing. Chris said, "I could have probably taken him for an extended flight." He made steady progress all summer. The oldest chick in the flock is a good, strong flyer! Not only is he the strongest, but he's often in first position off the wing of the plane during training. He can fly farther and longer than any of the other birds.

On moving day (September 24, when #703's cohort joined with the other two groups), #703 refused to land. He kept flying! He’d break for home again every time Joe or Chris managed to get him close to the new pen site. The two pilots chased #703 back and forth about three times. The bird had been airborne for 41 minutes by the time he finally landed at his new home. He's got the endurance for migration!

First Migration and Winter South
: Chick #703 left Wisconsin for his first migration on October 13th, 2007. He is the the oldest, the fastest, and the strongest flier in this group of 17 young cranes. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more details about #703 below.

Oct. 28, Day 16: During today's flight, #703 decided he wanted to lead. Pilot Richard said, "Pulling in the bar, I attempted to catch him but he persisted. The other five, not wanting to be left behind, kept up. Eventually the trike and six birds were approaching fifty miles an hour air speed!"

Nov. 3, Day 22: #703 once again charged ahead of the ultralight in what has become his signature move. Today pilot Brook claimed #703 looked back at him with that "Make My Day" grin on his face as he took over the lead from the plane. Brooke rose to the challenge, but #703 seems to like challenging his human leaders.

Dec. 4, Day 53: #703's wish to be Top Bird gave Joe some challenges in today's flight. Joe said, "Several times during today’s flight, #703 and I did battle. I bumped him several times, cut in behind him and once even pushed up hard when he was above the wing. I could see his shadow flat on the upper surface as I pancaked him. He slid off the tip and into the number 3 position, and for the next 20 minutes my job was easier." Joe tells more about #703:

"That bird will drive you crazy. I’ve never met a more aggressive Whooping crane. As soon as I walk into the pen, he begins stalking me. . .Twice now I have used my height to back #703 down and then chased him around the pen with the beak of my puppet nipping at his back. His reaction is to poke at some lesser bird in a simple case of displaced aggression.

"In the air, 703 is aggressive to the aircraft. To them we are just another bird. In their formation flight, the leader is the most aggressive member who pushes his way to the front. Most of the birds are content to hang behind the wing and take advantage of the free ride, but #703 can only do that for a few minutes. Then his rebellious nature takes over and he begins to fly above, below or in front of the wing. He calls to the rest of the flock and leads them off in other directions. If number #703 is leading, the pilot must work a lot harder than if any other bird is up front."

Dec. 12, Day 61: It was a no-fly day, but a day for exercise. After flying in the misty air and runiing around in the rain, it was time for the birds to go back into the pen. Walt got 13 chicks back in the pen, including 703, but they didn't want to be there. #703, being the oldest and cleverest, hassled Walt (in costume) while the others kept sneaking out the door. It was as if #703 was saying to the rest of the chicks, “I’ll distract him, you guys go for it!”

December 17, Day 66: Cranes have good eyesight. During today's attempt to cross the mountain ridge, pilot Chris reported 703 was "surfing my left leading edge and kept looking down at the assembly of people, or more likely the semi-trucks passing by 500 feet below us."

December 29, Day 68: Crossing the Cumberland Ridge today, #703 decided to take over the lead from Brooke— just as he's done on every flight the two of them have made together! Brooke said, "It’s just his thing, I guess, but he’s good at it. He can maintain his position with relation to the trike within an inch or two. I only allow him this privilege when it’s glassy calm. as rough air is too risky. . .He looked back at me occasionally as if for assurance that he was doing it right, but of course there’s no need, because he was. Millions of years of evolution have seen to that. It is I who is the ground-bound student and I am only the feeblest of visitors in his world. I’m not about to tell him that, however. At least not until migration is over."

January 17-18; Days 86 & 87: The birds must be getting cranky. They were picking on 703 in a common dominance battle. There can be a few scrapes, so the team separated 703 until everyone calmed down. On the 18th, the thrid no-fly day in a row, they took pity and let him out first to see how he did. He strutted his stuff like nothing ever happened. Said Bev, "In other words, he was a good boy."

January 28, Day 97: Crane #703 did not make the final flight (to the Chass pen) today. He sustained a minor injury a few days ago and the pilots worried whether he would be able to fly the distance. (He probably picked on one or more of his pen mates once too often and they fought back, or maybe he ran into the fence in an attempt to get out.) An injured crane, even though it's the biggest in the flock, becomes a target for aggression by the other cranes. They picked on him so much that the team was afraid for his life. So, after the Health Team completes the health checks of the rest of the Class of 2007 at Chass, #703 will be checked. If he gets the okay, he will be transported to join his flock mates at their winter home in the space of the larger release pen — where there should be enough space for him to avoid the aggression — and, if he can't regain his position in the dominance structure, at least he can be accepted back in.

Feb. 2, 2008: #703 was moved to the Chass pen site. The team crated him, moved him in the van to Crystal River, transferred him to an airboat, and placed him in a pen separate from his flock mates. Eventually he will be released with the rest of the birds. After he has recovered physically, the team hopes he will regain some of his natural aggression and again find a place in the flock. There should be enough space in the release pen for him to avoid the birds that pick on him the most, but the winter monitoring team will watch him closely to keep him safe.

February 5: #703 rejoined the flock.

Feb. 25: Although he now ranks low in the social hierarchy, #703 has healed from his earlier wing and chest injury. "He can fly quite well now," says Sara. "He flies every day as he gets chased out of the pen (usually by #721) and then spends time outside before either flying back in or being put back in by the caretakers. He is bigger than some of the other birds, including #721, but he no longer has the spirit to fight back or defend himself. He is very wary around the other birds. Sometimes he can be around them without a problem, but they ofen displace him from the feeders and the water guzzler."

"Crane "#703 is easy to identify by the one loose feather on his right wing" said caretaker Sara Zimorski. Click on photo for a larger view. Do you see the feather?

Photo Sara Zimorski

March 13: "Crane #703 seems to be fitting in better with the rest of the flock," reports Sara from the pen site. "He still gets picked on, but it seems to have decreased. We don’t find him outside by himself much anymore. He’s more often in with a small group of birds — or at least closer to them. Finally, I even saw him take a jab at a bird the other day; he wasn’t being particularly mean but it was nice to see a little bit of "attitude" out of him!"

Spring 2008, First Journey North: Began migration from Florida March 25 in a group of six flockmates and made it to Worth County Georgia. Four of the six stayed together (#703, #707, #709 and #714) and #710 and #722 flew off nearby. All six resumed northward migration the next morning, March 26. On March 30, #703 was found alone, still in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, but about 5 miles away from where one of his group (#714) had been killed by a predator. On April 11 #703 continued his northward migration to Macon County, TN, where he was forced to land due to rain. One night he roosted in a flock of Canada Geese! On April 15 Eva tracked him to Montgomery County, IN. He continued to move April 16 but his signal was lost in the Chicago area.

#703 in TN
Photo Anna Fasoli, ICF Tracking Crew Chief
Eva monitored #703 in TN April 10.
Photo Eva Szyszkoski, ICF
#703 in Wisconsin!
Photo Anna Fasoli

He was next reported in Monroe County, Wisconsin, on April 20. He remained at this location until April 23, when he flew just southwest of the refuge. Tracking interns Eva and Colleen tracked him throughout the day, and passed him over to Anna at 1:30 pm. He continued southeast, and ended up in Columbia County. "He will likely remain at this location for a few days, and then continue his period of wandering," said Anna. His migration is considered complete, and he wandered in Juneau County and neighboring counties. In late May he was with #412, 512, 627, 628, and 707. He departed this location by May 26. He wandered all summer, and spent time in southeastern Minnesota. PTT readings in September showed he was still there with #707, 39-07 (DAR), and 42-07 (DAR).

Fall 2008: #703's group headed south Nov. 15 from Minnesota. A high-precision PTT reading for female #39-07 (in the Minnesota group with #707, 703 and DAR 42-07) indicated a migration stop near St. Clair County, Illinois, on the night of November 16. This group wintered in Lowndes County, Georgia.

Spring 2009: PTT data from DAR 39-07 (and presumably her group with #703, 707, and DAR 42-07) put her (and probably the others) in Madison County, Alabama on the night of March 19 and in Marshall County, Kentucky on the night of March 22 as they migrated north. Confirmed back on Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 26-27. A Whooping crane reported in Big Stone County, Minnesota, on September 15 was photographed on 22 September 22 and tentatively idenfied as #703. He had last been detected in Wood County, Wisconsin, on August 11.

Fall 2009: #703 began migration on November 3 and was reported in northwest Indiana on Nov. 5. A further report of a single whooper at Hiwassee Wildlife REfuge in Tennessee on Nov. 9 was likely this bird. He was reported back on his former wintering grounds in Lowndes County, Georgia, on November 22.

Spring 2010: Male #703 and female 38-08 (DAR) were found together in a partially flooded cornfield in southern Wood County, WI during an aerial survey on April 5. In July they were still together: "Hopefully this will be a potential breeding pair next year," said Eva.

Fall 2010: At the end of November, male #703 was reported on the same private lands in Lowndes County, GA, where he has spent much time in the past couple of winters. Four Whooping cranes have spent considerable time on the property of this landowner over the winter months. The landowners sent this Thanksgiving Day photo of #703 (also known as 3-07) with #38-08 (DAR).

Spring 2011: Left Georgia March 8 with #38-08 (DAR) and they were back in the Necedah, WI area by March 21. They built a nest and probably began incubating April 12. Their nest failed on May 4 and they did not attempt another nest this summer.

Fall 2011: Male #703 (or 3-07) and his mate #38-08 (DAR) were on their winter territory in Lowndes County, Georgia, by December 4! The Georgia landowners who host them and also pair #707 (or 7-07) & #39-07 (DAR) on their property each winter, said: "In the four years that they have been coming, we have worked hard to maintain and encourage an estuary in the back of our pasture and return the land the way it was before we ever moved here. We are now home to several varieties on waterfowl. Last year we even had 3 Sandhill cranes move in, but I havne't seen them this year."

Three adult Whooping cranes in Lowndes County, GA, winter territory. Crane pairs 707 & 39-07 (DAR) and 703 and 38-08 (DAR) on their winter territory, as photographed by the landowner in February 2012. Male 703 and his mate #38-08 (DAR).
#703, #707 and #39-07 (DAR)
Photo Susan Braun
707 & 39-07 (DAR) and 703 & 38-08 (DAR) in Feb. 2012
Photo Susan Braun
#703 and mate #38-08 (DAR)
Photo Susan Braun

Spring 2012: When #703's mate, female #38-08 (DAR), was detected the evening of March 11 on Necedah NWR, it was assumed that #703 was with her; he has a nonworking transmitter. Sure enough: This pair had the first confirmed Whooping crane nest of the season! Bev Paulan of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducted an aerial tracking flight on March 26 and located pair #703 (3-07) and #38-08 (DAR) incubating on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, but they abandoned their nest on April 4. They began incubating a second nest April 23 and continued to incubate it past full term. The eggs never hatched and the pair left the nest.

Fall 2012: He was captured Oct. 23 and his transmitter replaced before migration. His original band colors remain the same. He and his mate #38-08 (DAR) completed migration about 4 pm on November 29, reported the Georgia landowner whose farm they visit in winters along with pair #707 and #39-07 (DAR).

Pair 707 and 38-08 in Florida Dec.  012 Pair #3808 and mate 703 in Florida, Dec. 2012 #38-08 DAR and mate #703 in pasture on wintering grounds
Pair #38-08 (DAR) and #703
Photos Susan Braun

Male #703 (3-07) disappeared on his wintering territory in Lowndes County, Georgia, after December 17, when he was last observed alive. On December 30, 2012, his mate (#38-08) was seen without him, and she has been regularly observed alone or with the second pair that is also wintering in the area. No remains have been found for #703, but by early January 2013, trackers suspected his death. ICF's Eva Szyszkoski noted, "There is no way he would just leave his mate like that," and he was removed him from the population total

Last updated: April 2013

Back to "Meet the Flock 2007"


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