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

Crane # 317 (17-03)

Date Hatched




Date Arrived in Wisconsin


Permanent Leg Bands
W/G/W (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: Somewhat shy and loves the wet pen so much that he will not come out unless bribed with treats. Seemed low on the pecking order but was more comfortable with the group by end of August.
Migration South: One of the six cranes (with 301,305,319, 212 and 316) that flew the whole first leg. Got tired and dropped out 8 miles short of 4th migration stop, so was crated and transported to location. That's the only 8 miles of the migration it did not fly.

Attained adult voice during the third week of March, 2004.
Spring 2004:
Left Chassahowitzka together with the other 7 remaining chicks on April 7. They flew until rain stopped them, roosting that night in Jefferson Cty., FL. Took off April 8 in the group of 8 but a thunderstorm separated the eight. Cranes #304, 306 and 317 stayed together, but flying southward. They landed in a north Florida wetland at 4:40 p.m. Cranes #304, 306 & 317 were last detected inflight in northwestern Georgia or northeastern Alabama in late afternoon April 10; in KY April 15, and in IL on April 16. On April 17, #304, 306 and 317 flew for almost 11 hours and landed in SE Minnesota well after darkness fell. This was approximately 65 miles southwest of their Necedah NWR reintroduction site. The three stayed in that MN location until April 23 and were seen flying along the Mississippi River in late April. Next went to Trempeleau County, WI, and were finally reported back at Necedah May 12. Later moved to nearby Mill Bluff State Park with several 2002 ultracranes from the 2002 flock.

Fall 2004:
Left Wisconsin October 23 with #317 and occupying Iroquois County, IL, since Oct. 26th. Detected migrating November 7 and trackers suspected he landed in Vermillion County, Illinois. Roosted in Orangeburg County, South Carolina on Nov. 10. Was in Colleton County, South Carolina, and remained in a large complex of wetlands and flooded cornfields in the southeast portion of South Carolina. Last observed Jan. 31.

Spring 2005:
Began migration from Colleton County, South Carolina, between March 11 and 15. Reported in a flock of migrating sandhill cranes in Berrien County, Michigan, on March 18. Back on Necedah NWR on April 6. Observed building a nest with #203 on the Refuge. The pair stayed around their established territory all summer.

Fall 2005: After 4 tries, ICF's Sara Zimorski and Richard Urbanek finally caught this bird on November 11. They replaced his transmitter and broken antenna so he can still be radio-tracked. He began migration Nov. 17 with #203. They later joined in flight with #102 & #212, #301 & #311. The group roosted that night in Will County, IL. They flew Nov. 18 to SW of Indianapolis, Indiana. They were still at this Marion County stopover in mid-December. He landed at the Chassahowitzka NWR pen in Florida on Dec. 22, along with #203. They moved to Sumter County, FL the next day, but returned to check out the Chass pen on Dec. 24.

Spring 2006: #317 and mate #203 left Florida on Feb. 1 with pair #301 and #311. They were last tracked on 2 February, when they were in flight over northcentral Okefenokee Swamp. They were on course for the place in South Carolina where #317 had wintered one year earlier. They arrived back at Wisconsin's Necedah NWR on March 18 or 19. The pair built a nest in early April but the nest failed April 15 or 16 and the eggs were lost to a predator.

Fall 2006: Began migration Nov. 19 and (with #303) made it to NE Illinois that night. The pair was detected in Indiana Nov. 22. They successfully migrated to Florida, and were in Hernando County until Dec. 19 when they left that location. They visited the Chass pen but haven't been seen since they left there on Jan. 28.

Fake egg placed in nest. Photo Richard Urbanek, ICF.

Spring 2007: Began migration March 5 (with mate #303 and pair #312 and #316). Confirmed back on Necdedah NWR (with mate #303) during an aerial survey on 23 March. Their arrival date was later set at March 15, according to the refuge's automatic datalogger. They deserted their first nest, but nested again and began incubating around May 14. Because #303 and #317 came from the same parents, they are full siblings—brother and sister. To help ensure genetic diversity among the reintroduced wild flock, experts went to the nest about 3 weeks later to swap the egg with another egg. The male Whooping Crane (#317) was sitting on the nest. Both cranes flushed from the area, and ICF staff quickly switched the eggs. They discovered that the pair's egg was not a good one. After several hours had passed and the adults hadn’t returned to the nest, they removed the good captive-produced egg, which was due to hatch very soon. This time a plaster fake egg was placed in the nest in case the adults returned. The egg from ICF was brought back to ICF for incubation, where the chick will become part of the DAR (Direct Autumn Release) project.

Fall 2007: Crane Pair #317 and #303 joined up with #216 around Necedah NWR on Nov. 20 and they left together on migration on November 22. The pair (303 and 317) were stilll in Marion County, Indiana, at the end of December.

May 5, 2008: failed nest found, good egg collected.
Photo ICF

Spring 2008: Male #317 and female #303 left their territory in Marion County, Florida, on February 5 or 6 and moved to an undetermined location. They were back on their territory at Necedah NWR on March 30. Everyone was thrilled to see the pair incubating on a nest beginning on April 9 or 10. A nest check on May 19 found 1 broken fertile egg and 1 intact fertile egg. The good egg was brought to ICF for incubation.

Fall 2008: Male #317 and mate #303 were found in Jackson County, Indiana, on January 1, 2009. They were reported leaving that area on January 3. No further reports.

Spring 2009: Reported back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 19. He and mate #303 were found on a nest April 8! The nest failed but one rescued egg hatched May 8 into chick #909, which would have become a captive breeding bird if it had survived. By May 21 the pair was re-nesting but abandoned that nest June 7. A rescued egg was incubated in Maryland for the ultralight flock but the chick did not survive. The pair remained together in the area all summer.

Fall 2009: He and mate #303 began migration on November 15, a day with clear skies and north winds to help push them south. Ten whoopers began migration the same day. Pair 303 and 317 next appeared when they continued migration on November 30 and landed to roost in Knox County, Indiana, with 216 and 716, 512 and 722, and (DAR) 38-09.

Spring 2010: Pair #303 and #317 left their winter territory in Indiana on March 9 or 10. Male #317 has a nonfunctional transmitter, but the signal of his mate, #303, was detected on March 17 at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. Even though they had not observed yet, it is likely that he and his mate were among the earliest arrivals for the new nesting season. They already had an active nest on April 1 or 2! The nest failed and a re-nest on May 3 also failed. Two of their eggs were rescued and hatched at ICF; the chicks were transferred to Patuxent WRC in Maryland. The pair later re-nested for a third time—the lucky one! Their late-season nest produced two chicks (W4-10 and W5-10)! By the end of June one chick had disappeared but W4-10 survived until July 14. The cause of death is being investigated. Cranes 303 and 317 make an unusual pair because they are full siblings.

TWO CHICKS hatched in June, 2010! They were the first chicks for pair 303 and 317. June 2010
Photo Matt Strausser, ICF
One chick, W4-10 survived. Here's the family on June 24, 2010. But then. . .
Photo Richard Urbanek, USFWS
On June 17 the parents and chick W4-10 moved to a new spot. Sadly, on July 14 the intact remains of chick W4-10 were found there. The carcass was sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, to determine cause of death.

Fall 2010: Crane names hereafter follow the naming conventions of WCEP: Male #17-03 (#317) and mate #3-03 (#303) began migration from Necedah NWR on November 17. They wintered in Knox County, Indiana, just as they have previously. The pair was there on Feb. 12 but not when the area was checked again on Feb. 17.

Spring 2011: Male #17-03 (#317) and his mate #3-03 (303) were recorded back on Necedah NWR by March 21. (His transmitter does not work.) The two were incubating on a nest by April 9 and hatched a chick (W2-11) on May 9! Their chick disappeared when a tornado passed through the area on May 22. They did not attempt another nest this spring. More bad luck followed: On August 16, his mate (#303) was observed injured near a refuge road bordering their territory. Examination by doctors at ICF showed she was emaciated with an infected left hock, and she was euthanized. Will male #17-03 (#317) now find a new mate?

Fall 2011: He migrated only as far as Lawrence County, Illinois.

Spring 2012: Male #17-03 (#317) arrived on the nesting grounds of Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 7 with Female #7-09 (#907)! This new pair was observed sitting on a nesting platform during one flight in May, but were not observed there again. No eggs were ever confirmed but perhaps next year they'll become parents!

Fall 2012: Male #17-03 wintered with his mate #7-09 (#907) first in Lawrence County, IL (their previous wintering location) before the pair moved to Knox County, Indiana, for the remainder or the winter. They began their journey north to Wisconsin on March 22 or 23.

Spring 2013: Male #17-03 (#317) and female #7-09 (#907) arrived March 29 on the nesting grounds of Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. They soon had a nest together but the nest faied early in May, along with the nests of several other crane pairs during an outbreak of black flies. This pair did not attempt to renest this summer.

Fall 2013: Male #17-03 migrated to the wintering grounds he shared last winter with mate #7-09 in Indiana/Illinois.

Spring 2014: Male #17-03 was last last confirmed with his mate, #7-09, at a previously used wintering location in Knox County, Indiana, on 24 November, 2013. By June 2014 he was considered dead and removed from the population totals.


Last updated: 9/20/14

Back to "Meet the Flock 2003"

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