Eastern Flock Chicks: Hatch Year 2015
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Group 1

Learn to migrate by
following ultralight airplanes

Group 1 chicks are captive-born.


Photos: Operation Migration

Whooping Crane Chick #1-15
Crane #1-15 (F)
(Died Oct. 2016)

Whooping Crane Chick #2-15
Crane #2-15(F)
Whooping Crane Chick #6-15
Crane #6-15 (F)
Whooping Crane Chick #8-15
Crane #8-15(F)
Whooping Crane Chick #10-15
Crane #10-15(F)
Whooping Crane Chick #11-15
Crane #11-15 (M)
Group 2   Direct Autumn Release (DAR)

Learn to migrate by
following older cranes in the flock

Group 2 chicks are also captive-born.

In fall the chicks are released on Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in the company of older cranes from whom the young birds learn the migration route in a program called Direct Autumn Release (DAR).


Crane 61-15 DAR
Crane #61-15(F)
Crane 62-15 DAR
Crane #62-15 (M)
(Died Dec. 2016)

Crane 63-15 DAR
Crane #63-15 (M)
Crane 64-15 DAR
Crane #64-15(F)
(presumed dead 2017)

Crane 65-15 DAR
Crane #65-15(F)
Crane 66-15 DAR
Crane #66-15(F)
Crane 67-15 DAR
Crane #67-15(F)
Crane 68-15 DAR
Crane #68-15(F)
Group 3   Wild Hatched

Learn to migrate by
following their parents

Group 3 chicks are wild-born.

Their parents raise them and teach them to migrate. This is the natural way cranes learn to migrate. One day, this flock will be large enough for wild-born parents to take over. Then human-assisted migration will no longer be needed.


Crane #W3-15
(died before migration)

Crane #W10-15 (U)

Crane #W18-15 (U)
A record 24 chicks hatched from 37 nests in 2015 but predation of chicks was high. Only three fledged and two survived to migrate.
Group 4   Parent Reared (PR)

Learn to migrate by
following their "adopted" parents

Group 4 chicks are captive-born.

Group 4 chicks are each released near a wild crane pair in hopes the pair will "adopt" the chick and lead it on migration. This part of the Whooping Crane reintroduction program began in 2013.

Three chicks raised by Whooping Cranes at Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center were flown to Wisconsin and released in September near potential surrogate whooper pairs at Necedah NWR. Though there was some initial interest between the chicks and adults, none of them stayed together very long. One chick (#16-15) died before migration and two survived and migrated.

PR #14-15 (F) Left Necedah NWR on 10/3/15, presumably with sandhills, and wintered with sandhills at Wheeler NWR in Alabama (photo). As of April 1, 2016, female #14-15 associates with a pair of adult Whooping cranes in LaPorte County, Indiana, but unfortunately appears to be injured. She was reported March 28 with a bad limp but still able to fly at least short distance. In good news, she flew to Wisconsin and in June 2016 showed no sign of the injury. She was in Jefferson County, WI, loosely associating at times with PR #20-15, and later in the summer and early fall of 2016 still in Jefferson County, WI, along with sandhill cranes. She remained in Jefferson Co, WI throughout October and occasionally associated with PR #69-16, but did not leave on migration with the younger crane. She was in Dane County, WI in early November and moved to Jefferson County, WI after mid November. She wintered in Morgan County, Alabama (see photo) but began moving northward to Greene County, Indiana over the weekend of Feb. 18-19, 2017. She returned to Wisconsin and was in Juneau County in April 2017.

PR #20-15 (M) was tracked briefly in Monroe Co, but by early October 2015 was seen in Dubuque, IA. He was alone, very close to a heavily populated area. After it became clear he was not following sandhill cranes and did not seem to be moving from the area on his own, ICF staff captured him and released him near #14-15 in Spring Green, WI (full story here). The day after his re-release he disappeared from Spring Green. He was alone in St. Martin County, Louisiana in January 2016. As of April 1, 2016, he was still alone in Louisiana but starting to move north. He successfully returned to Jefferson County, Wisconsin, where he was at times loosely associating with #14-15 and then moved to Walworth County, WI the rest of the summer and past mid November. By December 4, 2016, he ended up in St. Martin Parish, LA, where he wintered last year, and remained through all of February. "Who knows why he decided that's where he wants to go" commented ICF's Hillary Thompson, "but he seems to like it." He left Saint Martin Parish, LA by 18 March 18, 2017 and returned to Wisconsin, where he is currently in Adams County.