Photo: Operation Migration
Meet the New 2003 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2003 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 312 (12-03)

Date Hatched




Date Arrived in Wisconsin


Permanent Leg Bands
W/R/G (left)
G/R  (right) 
  • 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

Personality Characteristics: Just a good bird with no bad habits and a good follower. Certainly no wimp! Fairly dominant. Challenges costumed "strangers," such as visiting veterinarians or aviculturalists. Likes to be part of the group during flights. Gets anxious if she is a lone crane with one of the ultralights, and keeps glancing at the main flock as if she would prefer to join them.
First Migration South: Flew all but 33.1 miles (TN)

Acquired adult voice first week of Feb., 2004.

This is the ragged top otf the aluminum can that was stuck on #312's mandibles.

Click to enlarge so you can read the words printed on top.

Spring 2004: Began first migration north at 9:33 a.m. March 30, 2004 in a group of eight 2003 flock mates (301, 303, 305, 309, 312, 316, 318, 319). On April 9 the group separated south of Celina, Ohio. Birds 303, 312 & 16 retreated eastward, toward the location they had just left. On April 11 Cranes 303, 312 & 316 were observed feeding in a cornfield in west-central Ohio. They remained until April 24, when the three headed north. On April 25th they continued northwest and encountered Lake Michigan on an unfamiliar side at exactly the same point that the group of five had two weeks earlier. Cranes 303, 312 & 316 remained together in Michigan, confused by how to get around the huge obstacle of Lake Michigan. In April, crane #312 was injured by an aluminum-can top that became stuck around her bill, preventing eating or drinking. Tracker Richard Urbanek discovered the alarming situation. He quickly donned a costume and captured, helped, and released her. She recovered well.They arrived in central Wisconsin on July 26 and were discovered near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge on July 28, finally completing their interrupted migration!

Fall 2004:
Cranes 303, 312 and 316 left Necedah Nov. 20 and flew to Jefferson Cty., WI. On Nov 22 they were in Cook County, IL. Stayed in LaPorte County, Indiana from Nov. 22 until resuming migration on Dec. 18-20. They roosted in or near Fairfield County, South Carolina, on Dec. 22nd, then moved to Marion County, FL. for several days. They arrived at the Chassahowitzka pen site at midday on Jan. 2nd, roosting that night near the constructed oyster bar in the pen. They were the first HY2003 whooping cranes to return to the Chassahowitzka pen site after fall migration. Spent much of the winter on a horse farm in central FL.

Spring 2005:
#303, 312 & 316 departed on migration from Marion County, FL on March 20. Will they go back to MI or WI? PTT readings for 312 showed the group roosted in southern IN--on the correct migration route--on March 20! The three were reported back in Necedah area March 30. Cranes #312 and #316 continued to hang out together near Necedah NWR and nearby counties.

Fall 2005: She and #316 were not found in their usual area on Nov. 17, a day when 18 whoopers began migration from the area. They showed up with sandhill cranes at other spots in the next few days and likely began migration on Nov. 24. On Dec. 1 they arrived and stayed in Marion County on Florida's Gulf Coast north of the pen for ultralight-led chicks at Chassahowitzka NWR!

Spring 2006: She and #316 likely began migration from Marion County, FL on March 1. Although #316 was home in Wisconsin on March 17, #312 didn't return till later.

Click for larger view of adult pair #312 and #316 on Dec. 2, 2006 in Illinois with DAR #27_06 and #32_06

Fall 2006: Began fall migration from the Wisconsin summer home on Nov. 30 with #316 and young DAR (Direct Autumn Release) cranes #27-06 and #32-06. An ICF tracking intern tracked the four cranes to Kendall County, Illinois that night. These birds were one of the last groups to leave Necedah NWR. Cranes #312 and #316 have been together ever since they were chicks and migrated north together in spring 2004. They were in Alachua County, FL in December.

Spring 2007: Began migration March 5 (with mate #316 and pair #303 and #317). Detected (with mate #316) in flight in Wisconsin on March 23. They apparently arrived home in
Juneau County later that day.

Fall 2007: Began migration on November 12 with mate #316. They were tracked into northeastern Illinois before the ground tracker lost signals. A pair of unidentified whooping cranes, was reported in Colleton County, South Carolina, since November 16. It was determined in late December that #312 was now with #311.

Spring 2008: Confirmed back on Necedah NWR March 30. Cranes #311 and #312 began incubating around April 16! They failed to hatch the egg, but one fertile, intact egg was collected from the failed nest on May 5 and brought to ICF for incubation.

Photo Colleen Wisinski, ICF
Failed nest, good egg saved.
Photo ICF

Fall 2008: Began migration (with #311) from Necedah NWR on November 15, as did other first cranes to leave. The pair arrived on their wintering grounds in South Carolina a week later!

Spring 2009: Began migration from Colleton County, SC, on March 17 or 18 with #311. They were detected in flight in Indiana (by 312's transmitter signal) on their way to roost in Vermilion County, Illinois, on March 21. Biologists detected her signal at Necedah NWR the end of March, and assumed that her mate #311 was also back. The pair nested in April but the nest failed on the same day that black flies tormented several other nesting crane pairs off their nests. The pair remained together in the core area all summer.

Fall 2009: Pair #312 and #311 left Necedah NWR on migration November 26. They migrated as a group with several other departing Whooping cranes before landing to roost at an undetermined location(s) in Illinois. The pair was next detected Nov. 29 migrating through Tennessee, where they landed to roost on Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. They were on their previous wintering territory in Colleton County, SC by Dec. 3.

Spring 2010: Pair 311/312 began migration from South Carolina on March 15. They were reported back on Necedah NWR by March 26. On a nest survey flight in early May, tracker Eva suspected and later confirmed a nest by this pair in a remote area of the refuge. The nest was begun sometime between May 9 and 12, and the pair was still incubating as of May 28! On the weekend of June 12-13, Matt Ahrens, Operation Migration pilot and Matt Strausser, ICF tracker spotted a new chick with 311 and 312 while on a nesting survey flight. The pair's second egg never hatched, but chick W7-10 probably hatched June 11. Within a few days the family moved eastward from the nesting marsh to a pool and favorite feeding area of the adults. Unfortunately, the chick disappeared between July 3 and 6.

Fall 2010: Pair #312 and #311 began migration Nov 17 and wintered on their usual territory in Colleton County, South Carolina.

Spring 2011: Pair #312 and #311 began migration from their South Carolina winter territory after March 4 and were back at Necedah NWR by March 21. They began incubating a nest on April 14. This nest failed May 8 and no eggs were salvaged.

Fall 2011: Pair #312 and #311 migrated to Colleton County, SC for the winter.

Spring 2012: Pair #312 and #311 were both assumed to be back on Necedah NWR when her signal was reported on March 16! The pair had a nest by April 25, but it had failed by May 7. It was sad news when her mate was found dead on the refuge on May 31. Over the summer, she took a new mate in Crane #29-09.

Fall 2012: New pair #3-12 (12-03) and #29-09 were detected at a usual migration stopover in Vigo County, Indiana on November 1.

Spring 2013: Female #312 (12-03) arrived March 28 on Necedah NWR but tracker Eva did not detect her mate #29-09, so either his signal is not working or he didn't arrive with her. In mid-April she was seen alone, still without male #29-09.

Fall 2013: Female #12-03 was likely among seven Whooping Cranes reported in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on January 24 and in a group of seven reported in Franklin County, Tennessee, on January 29. "We assume these are the same birds," said ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski. "Based on band reports they are likely birds 12-09, 12-03/29-09, 18-09/35-09 and 10-09/17-07, although not all have been confirmed yet."

Spring 2014: Female #12-03 arrived March 28 on Necedah NWR. She paired with #12-05 and the pair nested. However, they abandoned their nest (with two eggs) sometime in May.

Fall 2014: Female #12-03 and mate #12-05 likely departed Necedah on Oct. 31 and migrated south. They wintered in Knox County, Indiana. They were photographed there on Feb. 25, 2015 by Mark Crowley:

Crane pair #3-12 and #5-12 in Knox County, Kentucky on Feb. 25, 2015.

Spring 2015: Female #12-03 returned to Necedah NWR by March 30 with a new mate (#29-09). They nested and their first eggs were removed April 16 as part of the forced renesting effort and she laid more eggs in a second nest. A chick hatched about June 2. It was still alive as of June 23, but did not survive to fledge.

Fall 2015: Female#12-03 and #12-05 were confirmed in Knox County, Indiana by November 13.

Spring 2016: Female #12-03 (and this time male #29-09) was observed on territory in Wisconsin by Bev Paulan's March 30 aerial survey flight. The new pair's first nest failed but they were sitting on a second nest by May 6. Their first chick, W7-16, hatched on May 24 and second chick, W8-16, on May 25. Both chicks were still alive on the June 7 aerial survey but only W7 survived and was flying short distances near its parents by Aug. 4 (photo). The chick was still alive in September, and by then was the single surviving chick of the 2016 breeding season. Unfortunately, W7-16 was killed by a predator in October.

Fall 2016: Pair #12-03 and #29-09 migrated south to Greene County, Indiana in early November.

Spring 2017: Female #12-03 and mate #29-09 were back on their Necedah NWR territory and nesting by early April. They re-nested and hatched chick W13-17 on June 5. The chick was still alive as of the July 18th aerial survey.

Last updated: 7/18/17


Back to "Meet the Flock 2003"

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