Meet the New 2005 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2005 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 502

Date Hatched

April 23 , 2005



Date Arrived in Wisconsin

June 15

Weight Aug. 31

Permanent Band Colors
Left Leg:
6.0 Kg

Right Leg:

G/W radio USFWS bands
  • 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: A little more nervous than the others in the first couple weeks of life. The week of May 28, #501, 502, and 503 began training behind the trike at the hatching center in Maryland. Moved to Wisconsin on June 15 with the other five oldest birds. She has a habit in which she always has to wash off whatever she's found or been given to eat! On her first day of flight school at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin, she wouldn't leave the pen. The noise of the approaching engine, though familiar, was too much for her and she was too scared to leave the pen. Pilot Joe Duff said, "She pushed against the back fence as the others tentatively came out the gate. We shut off the engine and spent 10 minutes coaxing her out. Once the engine was started again, and we began to taxi, she headed for the protection of the tall grass. Torn between hiding and following, she ran through the scrub brush, parallel to the runway, as the trike and the rest of the cohort headed north. Once we reached the end of the training strip, we stopped and began foraging for meal worms. Chick 502 headed deeper into the marsh. Once we had coaxed, cajoled, and corralled #502 back to the pen, we spent the better part of an hour foraging for treats around the aircraft. The birds and I poked the propeller, flicked the antenna, and generally kicked the tires until all the scariness was out of it. For the rest of the day, we replaced the heavy wooden gates with a wire mesh panel, Afterward, we parked the trike right outside. This gave the flock a view of the aircraft and lessened its mystique. This process was repeated the next day, and on the fourth day, #502 was the first bird out of the pen and first in line to run beside the aircraft."

On July 2, #501, 502 and 503 got airborne. July 9 the three oldest are flying beautifully, crossing entire lengths of the run way. July 13 the three flew with the trike beyond the end of the runway and even landed again with the trike---real progress!
On August 1 this cohort flew 17 minutes behind the ultralight! "Chick #502 may be the best flyer in this group, and has always been a very cute bird," said handler Mark Nipper.
At mid-September, Cohort 1 was going through a bit of regression after the stress of health exams. On September 9, all the birds except #502 tried to leave the pilot at some point during the training flight. Chick #502 is currently the whitest bird among the new flock, and she could be the best flyer in the whole flock--but for sure in this cohort.

First Migration South
Chick #502 left Wisconsin for her first migration on October 14th, 2005. Read day-by-day news about the flock's migration to see what happens. She did just great, and landed safely with the 19-bird flock on December 13 at the holding pen at Halpata Preserve. The cranes will be moved 26 miles to their final release pen at Chassahowitzka NWR ("Chass") in mid-January after all the older cranes have dispersed from the pen site.

The pilots and ultralights tried to move the birds on January 9. Crane #502 made it to Chass on the third day of trying, January 11. HOME for the winter!

Spring 2006: Began first spring migration from the "Chass" pen site March 28 with all flock members except 520. This flock of 18 split at roost time on March 28, and fourteen juveniles (501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 512, 514, 519, 523, and 524) stayed together. They probably roosted near the confluence of Turner, Crisp and Wilcox Counties in Georgia. They didn't move the next day. On March 30 they resumed migration and roosted in Hamilton County, TN. The next roosting place was March 31 in Spence County, KY; April 1 in Jefferson County, IN; April 2 and 3 in DuPage County, IL; April 4 in McHenry County, IL. (past Chicago). They are determined to get back to Wisconsin! They flew two days in rain, and in stong headwinds on April 4. On April 5 they resumed migration, stopping in Sauk County, WI--just short of Necedah NWR! Tracker Richard Urbanek was monitoring them the morning of April 6 when they took off. They completed spring migration as they passed the SW corner of Necedah NWR just after noon. (They kept going! They landed, foraged, and roosted that night in nearby Trempealeau County, WI.) In the summer she wandered with some flock mates. She later moved to an area of IOWA, along with #503 and #507.

Fall 2006: Began migration from Winnebago County, Iowa on October 31 with #503 and #507. On Nov. 6, less than a week later, they had successfully migrated to Florida! This was the first unassisted fall migration for these birds.

Spring 2007: Began migration from FL on March 18 (with #503 and #507). They were in Tennessee on 20 March (PTT), and in Jackson County, Indiana the next day. They remained there at least through 27 March. A low precision PTT reading for 502 indicated the group may have roosted in southwestern Michigan on April 1. By April 5 they had arrived back in Dodge County, Wisconsin.

Female #502 paired with male #407 and they spent most of their time in Meadow Valley Flowage. She died suddenly before the summer ended. On August 20 her completely intact body was found in a few inches of water. Experts believe death occurred on August 16 or 17, before the rains came and the marsh was likely dried up. Preliminary necropsy results indicated that she had died from an epicardial hemorrhage with cause yet to be determined.

Last updated: 9/17/07


Back to "Meet the Flock 2005"

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