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Naming System
Birth Place
Summer Home and "Flight School"
Winter Homes
Leg-band Codes

This chick will get permanent leg bands at about age 7 months.

Naming System (*Changed in 2010)
Each bird that follows the ultralight on its first migration has a number that becomes its "name" for its whole life. The number tells something about the bird. The bird's hatch-order number is first, with the hatch year at the end. So the third bird to hatch in hatch year 2010 is named 3-10. Gaps in the number system happen when a chick dies, if a chick is kept and raised as a breeding bird due to its valuable genetics, or for other reasons.


*The naming system is different for birds led south by ultralight in the Classes of 2001-2009, when the first digit (9) stood for the hatch year and the last two digits indicated the order in which that year's chicks hatched. In 2010 Operation Migration and Journey North switched to follow the WCEP naming style that now applies to every bird in the reintroduced Eastern Flock of Migratory Whooping Cranes.


Birth Place
The chicks hatched in Maryland at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC).
This is a special place where rare birds are bred and raised in captivity. The valuable eggs hatched in the care of experts. They were watched and cared for very closely.
Security gate to PWRC captive breeding center
Eggs from captive whooping cranes
Costumed trainers use crane puppets to help train the new chicks .


Summer Home and "Flight School"
Before they know how to fly, an airplane carries the little chicks to Wisconsin for "flight school." They live at a wildlife refuge with many acres of wetlands. The name of the refuge is Necedah (say: Nuh SEE duh) National Wildlife Refuge. They are released in special pens where they'll be safe as they learn to fly. During training the chicks learn to follow the ultralight planes that will teach them where to go when it's time for their very first migration.

A private plane flies the chicks from Maryland to Wisconsin.
Each chick travels in its own tall box.
Chicks are released in a safe pen at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.


Winter Homes
In October these chicks will follow ultralight planes to learn their migration route. They will leave Wisconsin and fly to warmer Florida, with the ultralight planes leading the way. (Chicks hatched in the wild learn the route the natural way: by following their parents.) When they reach Florida, half of the Class of 2009 will land at St. Marks National Widlife Refuge. The other half will keep going until they reach Chassahowitzka NWR. Like other members of the new Eastern flock, the youngest crane-kids will migrate back to Wisconsin each spring, and to Florida each fall. (They may disperse to a wider range as they get older.)

The Eastern flock's Two Winter Homes


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Leg-band Codes
Every crane in the new Eastern flock wears leg bands on each leg. Like names for humans, color-coded bands identify each crane for life. Detailed histories are kept on each of these endangered birds, and the banding codes help scientists tell the birds apart. ICF's Sara Zimorski explains the colors: "Red, white, and green are the three brightest and most contrasting colors. They show up, are easy to tell apart, and are not easily confused with other colors. That's why Richard Urbanek chose them for our color scheme. As a bonus, each bird has all three colors so if we ever see a bird with only 2 colors we will immediately know a band was lost. (Only one bird has lost a band since the start of this project in 2001.)"

Legbands also hold the battery-powered radio transmitter. A few of the birds will get yet another band and transmitter (PTT) for satellite tracking. For more information, see Tracking Cranes.

The permanent bands with color codes are attached to the birds' legs at the health checks after they arrive in Florida and before the top net is removed from the pen for their final release.



Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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