Meet the 2002 Whooping Cranes!
Hatch-year 2002 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 217

Date Hatched

May 18 , 2002



Pre-migratory Weight: 5.0 kg

(left:1.5-inch bands)

(right: 1-inch bands)
  • 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 (Scroll to bottom for current news)

Personality Characteristics: Usually quiet little chick. According to Dan, she doesn't like smelt for a treat — a very unusual trait! But just see what this chick did later in her history-making life:


Fall 2002: Successfully finished her first journey south behind ultralight plane.

Spring 2003: Left Florida on first journey north April 1, 2003 with 14 other whoopers. Returned successfully to Wisconsin April 13. Spent the summer about 15 miles from Necedah NWR with five flock mates.

Fall 2003: Began migration on Nov. 13 with six flock mates and #102. This group of eight arrived at their old pen site in Florida on November 21, 2003. During their entire journey south, the group stayed together and didn't even mix with sandhill cranes. This group left the old pen and moved to Pasco County shortly after arriving in Florida. Five of them, including #217, split from the group and moved to the same area of Pasco County that #101 and #102 occupied in winter 2002.

Spring 2004: Left Florida on spring migration around March 13, together with #101, 102, 205, 208, and 216. PTT readings indicated the group roosted in Indiana on March 22, and moved to DeKalb County, IL March 23. They arrived home at Necedah NWR on April 1, 2004.

Fall 2004: Remained at or near Necedah NWR (along with #211 and 212) until Dec. 11. Arrived at the Florida pen site December 15—flying the whole route in just 4-1/2 days! They roosted that night in the pool within the pen, near the top-netted enclosure containing the 13 newly-arrived 2004 chicks. On December 16th they stayed at the pen all day and night. On December 17 these 3 moved to the marsh 1 mile west of the enclosure but visited the pen often. The trio of 217, 211 and 212 moved on Dec. 26th to the Pasco County site, which was used by 211 and 212 during winter 2003-04. Cranes #217, 211 and 212 sometimes returned to the pen site. They were hostile to #214 when she also returned in February, and they drove her away.

Spring 2005: Crane 217 (with 205, 211, and 212) departed Pasco County, FL between March 10 - 12. Confirmed back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 29. On the evening of 17 April, #217 (female) stayed on the nest the pair built in the pond on the east side of the dike, while #211 (male) roosted alone on the west side of the dike on their pond. This behavior could indicate that laying of an egg is imminent. Sure enough! They laid an egg in their nest, probably April 19. Unfortunately, the pair left the nest site and moved off the refuge by late afternoon, leaving the nest unattended during the night. The next morning the egg was gone, apparently taken by a raccoon or other predator. The pair remained together on or near their territory at Necedah NWR all summer. In the fall they foraged in a field along with the direct autumn release (DAR) chicks with only minor aggression. If other adults appeared around the DAR chicks' home, pair #217 and 211 usually drove them away.

Fall 2005: Began migration from Wisconsin shortly after sunrise on Nov. 24 with #211. They were not tracked. The pair reached their former pen site in Florida on December 1. They moved to a ranch in nearby Pasco County and sometimes associated with #205 and #313, as well as with small groups of sandhill cranes.

Spring 2006: Crane #217 (together with #211) began migration from a cattle ranch in Pasco County, Florida on February 28. They apparently arrived on their territory at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 28. They built a nest and were confirmed incubating on April 11! But on April 20 both these adults were seen foraging together, an indication that their nest had failed. Biologists examined the nest site on the morning of April 21. No egg remains were found in or near the nest. A crane egg shell, believed to be from this Whooping Crane nest, was found on the dike about 300 meters from the nest, probably carried there by an avian predator. See photos. Then—surprise! This pair nested again and began incubating on May 23 at the original nest site they used last year. This time they stayed with their eggs. On June 22, 2006, experts watching through binoculars saw that the adult cranes' behavior had changed. The eggs had hatched! Twin chicks were confirmed on June 23. What a celebration! The new Eastern flock has its first family! Follow their story in our First Family photo slide show.

Fall 2006: The First Family left on their first migration south on Nov. 19, the day that a record total of 28 whooping cranes began migration. The parents and their surviving female chick (called W601) made it that day to Indiana! On December 9, 2006 at 4:08 pm parents #211 and #217 and their surviving chick arrived at the Florida pen site. The new parents brought their chick to the same place THEIR parent, the ultralight plane, brought them in 2002. WELL DONE! The family later moved to a lake in a large housing development in Hernando County, FL (not a good idea). They left that location in after February 22.

#211 and #217 on their April 2007 nest (later abandoned)
Photo Richard Urbanek, ICF

Spring 2007: The First Family (Mom #217, Dad #211, and chick #W601) began migration from Florida on Feb. 23. No further confirmed reports were received until March 20 when the radio signals of 211 and 217 and their chick #W601 were confirmed back on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin! Their chick is the first wild-hatched chick in the eastern migratory population, and the first to complete a roundtrip migration by following her parents — a milestone for the reintroduction of this new flock! By March 26, the chick had separated from the parents (normal behavior). The adults built a new nest and began incubating eggs on April 3. The nest was later abandoned; they began building another nest around May 17, but they did not hatch eggs this year.

Fall 2007: Pair #217 and #211 left on migration November 22, 2007. Found in Vermillion County, Indiana, on November 24 and still there when trackers checked on December 13. They were gone when the area was checked on December 23. On January 3, 2008, ICF tracker Eva detected signals for #211 and #217, the First Family parents. Eva confirmed the birds had landed at the Chassahowitzka pen site by making a trip to the boat ramp where she could once again hear their signals coming from the direction of the pen site. They stayed the night at the pen site. Eva wondered where they'd go next. She monitored them. The next morning they took off at 11:30. At noon they landed on their former territory and found W601, their female offsping from 2006! The photo and caption tell what happened:

The First Family on the adults' Florida territory.
Juvenile W601 was on her parents' territory when they arrived on January 4, 2008. Eva watched the family reunion. All 3 whooping cranes were less than 1 meter apart then W1-06 started walking away. The parents caught up with her and all 3 walking, then stopped and foraged together. It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will they chase the youngster away, which would be expected behavior? Trackers will continue to monitor these three birds closely to see how they interact. 
Photo Eva Szyszkoski, ICF Tracking Team

On Feb. 15, 2008, the two adults left their territory and flew to visit their old "Chass" pen where the Class of 2007 now lives. The adults landed in the pen and the chicks immediately ran and flapped to them, attacking intruders who dared enter their territory. The adults took the hint and flew a short distance away, with chicks on their tails. They were chased from the pen in a matter of minutes, flying to the west to land in a nearby creek. They got the message and didn't come back!

Spring 2008: On February 16 or 17, the pair left their winter territory. They were not tracked, but First Parents #211 and #217 (parents of W601) were confirmed at Necedah NWR on March 25. The pair began incubating on April 7. Hopes for chicks were dashed when they deserted their nest on May 6, with 2 fertile eggs, after a surge of warm weather. This is the second time the pair has abandoned a nest.

Pair #211, #217 in March 2008

Photo Russ Allison
May 6, 2008: Abandoned nest with 2 fertile eggs
Photo Richard Urbanek, ICF

Fall 2008: Began migration from Necedah NWR on November 15 with mate #211. They were found in Cherokee County, Alabama, at the end of December and beginning of January.

Spring 2009: Began migration from Cherokee County, Alabama, before March 8 with mate #211. Reported in Vermillion County, Indiana during March 9-14. (The refuge datalogger detected the presence of one bird at Necedah NWR on March 16.)

Chick W2-09 and parent. Sadly, the chick disappeared at two weeks of age.
Photo WCEP

Both birds were confirmed there on March 19 and incubating on a nest April 7! Black flies that hatched in a heat wave tormented the nesting adults and he nest failed before the eggs could hatch. The pair built a second nest — and became the new flock's first second-time parents when their chick hatched in June! The behavior of the pair indicated that the chick hatched on June 14 or 15, but visual confirmation was difficult to obtain until June 18 due to dense vegetation. This chick is W2=09 (W for wild, 2 for second hatched in the year 09). HOORAY! This is the second time in over a century that a naturally produced Whooping crane has hatched in the wild in the Midwest, and both came from pair 211 &217!

Sadly, W2-09 disappeared at just two weeks of age. The chick was last visually confirmed at 1:00 p.m. on June 28. The parents seemed to be tending the chick the early evening of June 29, but the chick could not be seen due to marsh vegetation. The parents were first observed behaving as if no chick was present around noon on June 30, and the movements of the parents have confirmed the loss of the chick.

Pair #211 & 217 did a lot of flying between the pen site of the DAR chicks and the pen site of the ultralight chicks over the last weeks of summer and early fall. Were they lonely?

Fall 2009: Female #217 was captured for transmitter replacement on October 19. She and mate #217 began migration from Necedah NWR with several other Whooping cranes on Nov. 26, migrating as a group before landing to roost at an undetermined location(s) in Illinois. On Nov. 28 the pair was at one of their previously used stopovers in Vermillion County, Indiana.

Female #217 was killed by a gunshot shortly after this sighting. She was 7 years old. Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents are conducting a joint investigation into the incident. The crane was shot sometime between Saturday, Nov. 28, when it was observed by Eva Szyszkoski, ICF Tracking Field Manager, and Tuesday, Dec. 1, when ICF tracking intern Jess Thompson found the carcass. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a minimum reward of $2,500 to the person or people who provide information leading to a conviction. Anyone with information should call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources 24-hour hotline at: 1-800 TIP IDNR (800-847-4367), or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 317-346-7016. Callers can remain anonymous.

Female #217 and her mate (#211) nested during each of the past 5 springs on their territory at Necedah NWR. They hatched two chicks and fledged one (# W1-06, a.k.a.W601) in 2006, becoming the first pair in the EMP to successfully raise a crane chick to fledge. Crane #211 and #217 were known as the "first family" in the new Eastern flock. The death of this breeding female is a huge loss and very sad news indeed.


Updated 4/14/11


Back to "Meet the Flock 2002"


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