Crane #216 Comes Home, But What Lies Ahead?

The 4-year-old #216 landed within his territory on Necedah NWR at 4:14 PM on April 18, 2006. (His mate, #303, had returned without him on April 12, 2006. She was on the ground 2.5 miles to the east.) What clues can you get about 216’s condition from his actions upon returning?


  • Ten minutes after his 4:14 arrival landing, #216 took flight, calling incessantly. His left leg (the one with the radio transmitter) was dangling and obviously injured.
  • He landed on another pool at the refuge at 4:50 PM.
  • He took flight at 5:23 and landed at 5:37 back where he first stopped.
  • He later moved a short distance away before roosting for the night.

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Before his injury and the separation with his mate (due to a storm or other disturbance on the 2006 spring migration), the two were expected to nest on their territory this spring. Female #303 has roosted on the pair’s old territory since her April 12 return.

What Will Happen?
Every crane in this endangered species is precious. Knowing #216 is injured, what would you do if you were an expert on the crane team? We asked two Tom Stehn, leader of the Crane Recovery Team. Tom said, “Leg injuries are tough in cranes. I'm sure we'll monitor it for a while before we make any decision, but will lean towards leaving it in the wild unless it looks really bad and/or the bird is having trouble getting food.”

Sara Zimorski is also an expert on the crane team. She adds, “I'm so sad about #216. He's one of my favorites. It's really a tough and tricky situation. We could make his leg worse by catching and handling him; yet, he might not be able to survive long term with that injury. However, he has had this injury for about two weeks now and he was able to fly from Minnesota to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. So he's tough and hanging on so far.

“I think the pairing of #216 and #303 is probably done, but it would be interesting to see any interaction between the two if they meet up again. I don't think #216 would do well in a fight or trying to chase off another bird. However, the males that #303 has been hanging out with are young, and there's nothing definite going on with her and another male yet.”

Try This! Journaling Question

• What do you think will happen to #216? Summarize the situation and make your prediction. You can keep informed by checking #216’s life story page. It will always have the latest news. See if your prediction is right!