Whooping Crane
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This chick will get a permanent leg band at about 7 months of age.

Naming System
Each bird has a 3-digit number that becomes its "name" for its whole life. The number tells something about the bird. The first digit (5) stands for the hatch year (2005). The last two digits stand for the order in which these chicks hatched. So, #501 hatched first and #520 hatched 20th. Gaps in the number system happen when a chick dies, or if a chick is removed from the flock and raised as a breeding bird.

Birth Place
The chicks hatched in Maryland at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC).
The valuable eggs hatched in the care of experts. They were watched over very carefully.
Security gate to PWRC captive breeding center
Eggs from captive whooping cranes
Costumed trainers use crane puppets to help train the new chicks .

Release Site
Before they know how to fly, an airplane carries the little chicks to Wisconsin for "flight school." They live at a wildlife refuge with 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. Every day they have training time, learning to follow the ultralight planes that will teach them where to go when it's time for their very first migration. They will leave the refuge and fly to warmer Florida in fall, but they will fly back all by themselves next spring. If all goes as planned, the 2005 chicks will follow this migration route every year for the rest of their lives.

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.

Over-wintering Site
In October these chicks will follow ultralight planes on their first migration to learn the way. They will go to their winter home in Florida. Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is the winter home for the whole Eastern flock. Here they will see older whooping cranes who also migrated from Wisconsin. Like other members of the new Eastern flock, the 2005 chicks will migrate back to Wisconsin in the spring. They will do this every spring for the rest of their lives.

The Eastern flock's winter home
A view from the sky
Wild and free


Leg-band Codes
Every crane in the new Eastern flock wears unique color-coded leg bands on the right leg. Like names for humans, the banding codes identify each crane for life. Experts keep detailed histories on each of these endangered birds, and the banding codes help them tell the birds apart. Every bird also wears red-over-white radio transmitter bands on the left leg. The permanent bands with color codes are attached to the birds' legs after they arrive in Florida and before they are released to be wild and free. That's also when a few of the birds will get yet another band and transmitter (PTT) on the left leg for satellite tracking. For more information, see Tracking Cranes.

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

Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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