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

Crane # 506 (6-05)

Date Hatched

May 2 , 2005



Date Arrived in Wisconsin

June 15

Weight Aug. 31

Permanent Band Colors
Left Leg:

G/W radio USFWS bands


6.2 Kg
Right Leg:
  • 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: Scroll Down for Most Current

Migration Training: Chicks #505, 506 and 507 were the first group of birds behaved well enough to train together in their first weeks. Mark Nipper says, "They are funny little birds. Dominance in this group seems to change every day. They follow the trike pretty well for most of the time. #506 is the most aggressive, but the dominance is hard to tell during training. Just because he starts everything doesn't mean he is winning. The other two in his little group don't readily cow down to him, even when he starts trouble. With these guys it isn't true fighting, but usually just bumping chests to see who is bigger." He was shipped to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on June 15 with the rest of cohort #1.

By July 9, #506 was still a "lagger." He needs a little more coaxing to follow and does very little flying yet. But he IS a little younger than the other Cohort One chicks, and will need a few more days before he can fly as well as the others.

While flying on
August 8th, #506 joined 505 after a few minutes of flying with the trike, and the two of them went back to the pen. After training the other four birds in this group and getting them back into the pen, the pilot decided to try flying #505 and 506 again. This time it worked better. They flew over to a plot of flat land where the two chicks were fed a small feast of smelt and grapes. (They expected these treats as if they were royalty!) Then they flew back with the trike over a pool, and that's when #506 decided to go back to the pen instead of following the trike some more.

He will eat anything, and he loves corn. He is weaker than some of the birds, and turns back to the runway. He is middle in the order of dominance.
On August 10 the handlers said #506 sounded very good. His normal-sounding peep was very encouraging, since he's had periodic respiratory problems since he arrived at Necedah, and he coughs occasionally.

On Aug. 11, #506 got lost! The Cohort One birds had a great flight around the Refuge got spooked by the traffic when the pilots led them near the highway. The pilots knew they'd better take them home. But trouble struck over a thickly wooded area on the way to the pens. Mark said, "Poor little #506 just couldn't get the altitude and speed to keep up with the trike and went down in the woods." After some frantic circling and searching by pilot Richard van Heuvelen (RVH), a full-scale search was launched. Helpers got the capture gear: crate, first aid kit, and bull horn speaker for the vocalizer, waders, treats, binoculars, and GPS. Everyone pitched in The rains fell, and Richard circled the trike in the air search as the others slogged through the forest in what became an extremely grueling and fruitless 6-hour march. A further problem was #506's respiratory trouble. This not only weakened the chick, but also affected its peeping ability. A good way to find a bird is to play the vocalizer and then turn it off to listen for the chick to answer. It was looking pretty bleak when RVH came over the radio of the ground searchers, yelling that he had #506 in the air and it was heading right for the wing. The bird followed for a short distance then made its way over to another wetland on the refuge and landed. RVH pulled off a daredevil landing on a dike and joined the bird. arrived to discover the bird in perfect shape and mood. They got 506 in the crate and back to the pen. The happy ending is that bird was perfectly fine after being lost for about six hours. Where was he all that time? One of the refuge staff spotted #506 walking down Headquarters Road (the main entrance to the refuge)! This was shortly before RVH flew over, so #506 must have gotten in the air from that road. Searchers think that #506 was in the woods and they just missed it. The chick eventually found a lovely clearing with nice foraging along a road that they had driven back and forth on at least ten times and within ten minutes of RVH spotting it. Mark Nipper said, "We were all quite happy and celebrated by eating lunch and sleeping the rest of the day."

At mid-September, Cohort 1 was going through a bit of regression after the stress of the health exams. Chick #506 often follows #505 on his frequent drop outs. On September 9, all the birds except one tried to leave the pilot at some point during the training flight. The pilots hope the chicks will be excited to follow the trike again soon.

First Migration South
: Chick #506 left Wisconsin for his first migration on October 14th, 2005. Read day-by-day news about the flock's migration to see what happens. Here is more news about Chick #506

On day 1 he returned to the pen and had to be crated and taken to the first stopover. (Chicks 503, 505, 516 and 524 turned back too.)

On day 43 in Tennessee, he dropped away from the birds following Joe's plane as they climbed to cross the highest mountains on the migration route. As they descended to land after a tough flight, Joe noticed one more bird up high. With 10 on the ground and 9 on their way down, Joe thought that the high one must be one of the older cranes also reaching the Hiwassee Refuge. But once it landed there was no mistake, it was#506! Joe said, "All nineteen birds were safely on the ground, which meant one had followed us at tree-top level for the last 10 miles but the other crossed the ridge and kept us in sight for better than 30 miles, joining us as we circled down." Which do you think was #506?

#506 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 release pen.

The pilots and ultralights tried to move the birds on January 9. Crane #506 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.) He spent the summer wandering in and near the core reintroduction area. Crane #506 (with #505) was last confirmed in Green County, WI on September 15.

Fall 2006: Began migration from Wisconsin on Nov. 19 with #505. Made it to SE Indiana that day. Found roosting near the Halpata Tastanaki pensite (last year's laover site on arrival) in Marion County, FL on Nov. 24! Then detected in flight in Citrus County with female 521 on Nov. 25. Cranes #505 and #506 were in Citrus County at the end of December.

Spring 2007: Began migrating on March 13 with #506. They were in Cumberland County, Tennessee, until March 17-24. They arrived on Necedah NWR on April 2.

Fall 2007: Left Necedah NWR on October 6. Radio signal last detected from
undetermined location south of Mill Bluff, Wisconsin, during aerial survey on October 10. Reported near Arena, Iowa County, on November 17 and still present on November 23. Next reported with#313 and #318 on a wildlife refuge in Alabama on December 27-30. The group reached the old Florida pen site on 5 January 5 and roosted that night, along with #309 and #403. The five moved together the next day but separated in flight on Jan. 7. Crane #406 moved to Marion County, Florida.

Spring 2008: Crane #506 began migration from Sumter County, Florida, on March 4. On April 3-5 he was observed associating with female #107 in Adams County, Wisconsin, so he's back!

Fall 2008: Crane #506 was believed to still be in the southern part of Wisconsin as of November 24, after all other Whooping cranes in the flock had recently departed on migration. He did successfully migrate to Meigs County, Tennessee.

Spring 2009: 506, 501, 105, and DAR 37-07 were confirmed by radio signal near Armstrong Bend, TN on March 8. By March 28 he had been confirmed back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. Great news came when once again he and female #107 temporarily began hanging out together in Adams County. Would they mate so #107 would finally nest and lay eggs? They were together by May 2 but, alas, separated by May 12. He remained single all summer.

Fall 2009: By December 7, all but 11 Whooping Cranes were gone from the new Eastern flock's summer home in Wisconsin. Those 11 included pair #307 and 726, two single males (#506 and #713) and seven of this year's (2009) nine DAR chicks. They surprised experts when they chose to begin migration on a very snowy December 11, after being content to roost on ice and standing in the brisk winter wind for the previous week. They had reached Winnebago County, Illinois! The birds had moved on by the time trackers got there the next day. Eva said, "When we finally got a reading, we were all surprised to see that they had flown east of Indianapolis, Indiana, 240 miles southeast of their last location and right on track with the main migration route for Sandhill Cranes. I arrived at the location and heard all 11 signals coming from the same area. But I could not see them since it was dark outside." The next morning they made a couple of local movements before traveling only 50 miles to the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, near the Indiana/Kentucky Border. In the first three days of migration, which was the first-ever migration for the seven chicks, they flew a total of 430 miles!

Photos Eva SzyszKoski, ICF
Crane 506 and the seven 2009 DAR chicks continued to Jefferson County, Kentucky. They moved to Adair County, Kentucky on February 12 or 13. They stayed at least through Feb. 28. What is unusual about what they are doing in this photo? Enlarge
Photoi ICF Tracking Team

Spring 2010: Cranes 506 and youngsters DAR 32-09, 34-09, 35-09, 36-09, 37-09, 40-09 and 41-09 were reported back in Jefferson County, KY on March 1. They migrated from there to Muscatatuck NWR, Jackson County, Indiana, on March 5. On March 15 or 16 they separated into two groups. PTT data for 32-09 (DAR) indicated a roost location for her and presumably #506, 37-09 (DAR), and 40-09 (DAR) in Champaign County, Illinois. On March 18 PTT data confirmed #32-09 back at Necedah! A few days later #506 and the two others migating with them were visually confirmed: migration complete. In mid April he was still with the three DAR birds he migrated back north with (32-09, 37-09, and 40-09) l, and tracker Eva said, "Hopefully he steals one of those two females when that group breaks up!" But that group was reported in Adams County, WI along with female #107 by mid April. Male #506 was last detected on Necedah NWR on May 31, when he was observed with female #926. (He had previously been disappearing to and returning from an undetermined location.) He was back on the refuge in mid October.

Fall 2010: Migrated and wintered in Hamilton County, Tennessee with #906 and #38-09 (DAR).

Spring 2011: The group #506, #906 and #38-09 (DAR) left Hamilton County, TN sometime between Feb. 25 and 27. Crane #506 was found in Juneau County, on March 27, migration complete. During summer he paired with #37-09 DAR. DAR #37-09 paired with #6-05 in 2011 and migrated with him to Jackson County, Indiana, that fall.

Fall 2011: Crane #506 (or 6-05) migrated with female #37-09 DAR to Jackson County, Indiana, where he was later killed. His carcass was found Dec. 30 by a photographer near the Muscatatuck River basin, about 40 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. X-rays showed a fatal gunshot wound caused the bird's death. A reward is being offered for any information leading to prosecution of the shooter of this federally endangered bird.

Crane #506 (or 6-05) is the second shooting of a Whooping crane in Indiana. The first was in 2009 when female #217 (a.k.a. #17-02), the seven-year-old matriarch of the first chicks hatched to the new Eastern Migratory Flock, was killed by illegal gunfire.

As of February 2017, the case remained open with a reward of $7500 for information leading to the arrest of the shooter.

Last updated: 2/26/17


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