Photo: Operation Migration
Meet the Whooping Crane Class of 2004!
Hatch-year 2004 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 403 (#3-04)

Date Hatched

April 21 , 2004



Date Arrived in Wisconsin

June 16, 2004

Permanent Leg Bands
(change from original G/R/W)


  • 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

Migration Training: Introduced to the trike at 8 days. Received 9 hrs & 10 min. of aircraft conditioning while at PWRC. Big and dominate, he's one of the top birds. A pig for treats.  

First Migration South
: One of the seven who flew on day 1.

Spring 2005:
Left on first journey north with the group of 11 on 25 March, 2005 after 103 days on wintering grounds. After flying through Georgia and veering as far east as South Carolina, the flock corrected their course, stopping in Indiana before reaching Wisconsin. Still together, the group of 11 entered Wisconsin the evening of April 4.  On April 6 the group of 11 split. Chick #403 stayed with 2, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 20. They remained in Dane County, WI and finished their migration to Necedah NWR on May 3. During the summer, cranes #402, 403, 412, 416, and 417 roosted as a group, often with sandhill cranes. They spent time in Columbia and Marquette Counties, WI.

Fall 2005: Left Wisconsin on its first unaided fall migration on November 9, together with #402, 412, 416, and 417. They made it to Indiana the first day.On November 10th they were roosting at a central Tennessee location. On November 10th they were roosting at a central Tennessee location. According to tracker Lara Fondow, the five males landed at their former pen site in Florida at 2:05 November 17. They are the first Eastern flock whoopers to complete migration to the primary wintering area in west-central Florida this fall! With no free food at the pen, they wandered north the next day.

Spring 2006: Began migration on March 27 or 28 in a group with 402, 412, 416 and 417. They were reported in Dane County, WI on March 31. They moved up to Necedah NWR to complete their migration on April 6!

Fall 2006: Departed Wisconsin on Nov. 19 (with #310, #402 and #412) and made it that night to NE Illinois. They successfully migrated to Florida, where #403 was in Lafayette County with #402 and #412.

Spring 2007: Began migration March 18 (with #402 and #412).Confirmed roosting with #402 on Necedah NWR, on the night of March 26. In the summer he was hanging out with #W601. That changed on October 4 when wandering female #309, newly-captured-and-returned-to-Wisconsin, drove off the younger W601 and paired up the #403. Everyone is hoping that the pair will stay together, migrate south, and that male #403 can convince wayward #309 to return with him to Wisconsin next spring.

Fall 2007: Crane #403 and #309, still together, left Wisconin on migration on November 27. They were detected in Indiana on December 13. They arrived safely at their old Chass pen site in Florida on Jan. 3! They moved with #313, 318, and 506 to Sumter County on Jan. 6. The next day the group of five cranes took off and separated in flight. But #403 stayed with #309 as they moved to Madison County. Scientists hope they will stay together on a territory all winter — and that #403 can convince #309 to migrate back to Wisconsin (instead of New York!) in spring for the first time in her life!

Spring 2008: 403 and mate (#309) were tracked to their first overnight migration stop in Madison County, Florida, on February 28. They left the following day. They returned to Necedah NWR on March 27 and on March 30 were seen defending their territory against #213 and #218! HOORAY!! For the first time in her five springs #309 has completed migration to Wisconsin, thanks to 403!!!! In more good news, the new pair #403 and #309 were observed April 9 sitting on a nest!

#403 and mate #309 defending their territory against #213 and #218 on March 30, 2008

Photo ICF Trackers

Aerial view of #309 nest on April 23

Photo Sara Zimorski, ICF
May 3 nest check: only eggshells

Photo Richard Urbanek, ICF

On May 5, the pair was seen foraging together outside of their nesting marsh on the Necedah Refuge. "This was an indication that their nest had failed," said Dr. Richard Urbanek. Only small eggshell fragments were found in the nest.

Fall 2008: Began migration from Wisconsin on November 17, along with mate #309 and also #520. The pair (still with #520) ended up in Lafayette County, Florida by late December.

Spring 2009: Male #403 (with mate #309 and crane #520) apparently began migration from Taylor County, Florida, between February 19 and 25. The pair #309 and #403 were confirmed on Necedah NWR on March 23. They built a nest and laid eggs that would hatch May 5 if they incubate them successfully. An infestation of black flies had driven all the other nesting pairs off nests by April 24, but #309 and #403 kept sitting. However, their nest also failed; it appears that black flies made it impossible for them to keep incubating in comfort. Photos below.

#309 and #403
Nesting 2009

Photo Heather Ray, Operation Migration
By April 24, 2009 this pair had the only remaining nest out of ten nesting pairs this spring. They "toughed out" the torment of black flies hatched on very warm days April 23-24. A new video camera kept an eye on the birds and their precious nest.
Everyone was hoping this pair could keep incubating their eggs, due to hatch around May 5-7.

Photo Sara Zimorski
But the black flies proved too difficult to put up with. The pair left their nest and moved through the woods. They were not foraging but were showing signs of discomfort: shaking their heads and rubbing their heads on their backs.

Photo Sara Zimorski
After the birds left on Sunday May 3 and showed no signs of returning to the nest, 2 fertile and viable ( still alive) eggs were collected from the nest and brought to ICF.Sara reported: "The eggs
looked good and were old enough that you could see them move when the
brood call was played for them. This is how we knew they were still
alive." (More below.)
With the eggs of #309 and #403 safely at ICF, Sara said, "By May 5, one of the eggs was peeping, meaning the chick had gotten into the egg's aircell and was getting closer to hatching. ICF isn't ready for DAR chicks so on May 6 one of our newer aviculturists, Kim, took both of #309's eggs plus a fertile egg produced at ICF to Patuxent WRC in Maryland. These three eggs will hopefully hatch and become part of the ultralight project, and those chicks (if they make it) will get to return to Necedah where two of them came from!" Meanwhile, the pair re-nested on May 23. They were still incubating eggs in the second nest as of May 27. Their second nest failed June 14 but in the meantime, the rescued eggs from the first nest hatched into #906 and #908 for the Class of 2009 ultralight-led flock!

Fall 2009: #403 and mate #309 began migration from Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, on December 7. No further reports until January 20 when an airplane tracking survey found them at home in a swamp in Lafayette County, Florida. Crane #416 was with them. They were there on Feb. 16 but gone by March 4.

Spring 2010: Migrating pair #403 (hereafter called #3-04 according to WCEP naming standard) and #9-03 (#309) were reported in Richland County, Illinois, on March 9-16. They were reported back on Necedah NWR by March 20 and were observed on a nest during an aerial survey on April 5. The nest failed April 11 The nest failed April 11 and they renested again April 29-30. They were still incubating those eggs on May 28, so it looks like it might be successful! The wonderful news of TWIN chicks (W1-10 and W2-10) came on May 31! OM pilot Richard van Heuvelen first saw the parents with two chicks on May 31 when flying over the refuge to monitor nests for research purposes. Both parents appeared to be tending to the chicks. One chick (W2-10) disappeared between June 6 and 7. The parents and surviving chick (W1-10) remained in the general wetland area containing the nest.

Most of the adult Whooping Cranes left on migration November 23, 2010. Only nine remain on or near the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, including the family group #3-04 (#403), #9-03 (#309) and their wild-hatched chick #W1-10.

Fall 2010: The family group #403, #309 and wild-hatched chick #W1-10 began migration November 25 or 26. They were detected in Lawrence County, Illinois on December 3. The family completed migration to their previous wintering territory at Lafayette County, Florida and were found during an aerial survey on December 21. They were in Taylor County, Florida during a survey flight on January 13, 2011. Trackers tried a ground search of this location on February 9 but the area proved to be inaccessible by ground. The family was not detected on an aerial search of the area on March 11.

Spring 2011: Parents #3-04 (#403), #9-03 (#309) completed migration north (with their juvenile, W1-10) to Necedah NWR by March 21. The pair had two failed nesting attempts this spring. On April 30 two viable eggs were collected from the first failed nest to be incubated in captivity. The pair re-nested May 18. This nest failed May 28. Two eggs were rescued and transferred to the International Crane Foundation; no chicks for this pair this summer.

Fall 2011: Pair #3-04 (#403) and #9-03 (#309) and began migration between November 23 and 27. They were next reported in Wayne County, Illinois on December 30 in a warm winter when many crane in the eastern flock did not go all the way south.

Spring 2012: Male #3-04 (#403) and his mate #9-03 (#309) were detected in flight March 15 with several other Whooping cranes as they headed north over ICF in Baraboo, Wisconsin—getting close to Necedah NWR. They returned and were found with a nest on April 7! The pair incubated 35 days before leaving the nest. Their egg never hatched, so there were no chicks for this pair in summer 2012.

Fall 2012: He was captured Oct. 18 for replacement of his transmitter before fall migration. His original band colors remain the same.

Spring 2013: Male #3-04 completed spring migration with mate #9-03 back to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 29. By mid April they were observed on a nest. Like all but one of this season's first nests, their first nest failed, but the rescued eggs were taken to ICF for incubation and hatched May 15 and 16. These became chicks #2-13 and #5-13 in the ultralight-led Class of 2013! In addition, this pair had nested a second time by May 31 and successfully hatched out baby #W3-13. DNR pilot Bev photographed the chick with one of its parents again on a July 23 aerial survey (below). Their chick W3-13 was the only wild-hatched chick of 2013 to survived and fledge, and was still doing well in mid October, 2013.

W-3-13, alive and well on July 23 with one of its parents.

Fall 2013: The family completed migration to the adults' previous wintering location in Wayne County, Illinois, by November 14, but their young colt, W3-13, was last observed alive during an aerial survey flight on December 11. As of January, the colt was presumed dead. The parents migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2014: Pair #3-04 and #9-03 began migration from Wheeler NWR in Alabama sometime after 29 January. Two birds reported in Wayne County, Illinois, on 21 February are believed to be this pair. They arrived back at Necedah NWR on March 29 or 30.

Fall 2014: Pair #3-04 and #9-03 left Juneau County, WI, on fall migration between Nov. 6 and 9. They spent the first month or less at Wheeler NWR, Alabama and then moved to Wayne County, Indiana. The pair commuted between here and the private wetland area in northern Illinois as weather dictated.

Spring 2015: Pair #3-04 and #9-03 returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin in March. They were seen May 22 on a nest. Experts removed those eggs but the pair re-nested and their second nest produced one (possibly two) chicks around June 2. One chick, W18-15, fledged and survived the summer! Gender was undetermined, and the family was too elusive to let the chick be captured and banded before fall migration.

Fall 2015: Family group #9-03, #3-04, and colt W18-15 were spotted November 10 in Wayne County (southern Illinois) in the private wetland area where the adults have spent the past few winters. A knowledgeable observer reported that if this year is like last year, the family may remain in the area as long as weather is milder and commute between there and Wheeler NWR in Alabama when weather becomes severe. Indeed, the family was observed in both locations as winter unfolded.
#9-03 with family on northern Illinois wintering groundsPhoto Leroy Harrison

Spring 2016: The family of male #3-04, mate #9-03 and chick W18-15 were spotted March 7, back in Richland County, Illinois. The family was in Wayne County, Illinois, as of March 21. The pair returned to Juneau County, WI where they and hatched new chicks W13-16 and W14-16. First seen May 28 and May 30 with the parents, the chicks did not survive the summerl.

Fall 2016: Pair #3-04 and #9-03 migrated south and were seenat their wintering grounds in Richland County, Illinois, Nov. 11 and 12. During December, the pair were confirmed at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama.Photo Leroy Harrison They use both wintering areas, depending upon the local weather conditons. Here they are in February, 2017, on their Illinois territory:

Pair #3-04 and #9-03 on their Illinois wintering grounds

Spring 2017: Male #3-04 and mate #9-03 returned to Necedah NWR and were incubating one egg on their nest by early April! It is likely that a second egg was laid soon after this photo was taken. The photo shows male #3-04 taking his turn for incubating while his mate returns to the nest:

Pair #3-04 and 9-03 with nestDoug Pellerin, 2017

The pair re-nested and were incubating their second nest when seen on Bev Paulan's May 12 flight.On June 5 they hatched chick W14-17, who survived until about mid July.

Last updated: 7/19/17


Back to "Meet the Flock 2004"


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