Class of 2001 Whooping Cranes – The Pioneers!

This was the very first cohort of Whooping Cranes released into the Eastern Migratory Population!

All Whooping Cranes released in 2001 were raised by costumed handlers and learned their migration route by following Operation Migration’s ultralight aircraft from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County, Wisconsin, to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus County, Florida.

The 1200-mile southward migration began October 17, 2001, and ended 48 days later on December 3, 2001.


Rem. to captivity ’14


Died ’08


Died ’01


Died ’01


Rem. to captivity ’11


Died ’05


Last seen May ’10


Rem. before first migration


Died ’02


Capture myopathy 9/11 (Health check)

Crane #1-01

This was the very first Whooping Crane hatched and destined for release in the Eastern Migratory Population.

Sex: Male
Hatch Date: May 7, 2001

Personality Characteristics: As a chick, definitely ruled the other birds. Often led by flying directly behind the wing of the aircraft but was also seen at the end of the line. Dominant but mellow, and the most costume-friendly of all the birds in the Class of 2001.


Spring 2002: Returned to Necedah in the group of four who survived the winter, arriving April 19, 2002 after leaving Florida April 9. Paired up with Crane #2-01 for the summer, hanging around the training site where the seventeen new 2002 chicks were being trained to fly with the ultralight.

Fall 2002: The pair of #1-01 and #2-01 astonished the pilots by showing up and joining with the ultralight chicks and aircraft on November 24 as the fall migration covered Tennessee. These two adult cranes flew five miles with their old stand-in parents and the Class of 2002 before breaking off to continue on their own! Spent the 2002-03 winter in Pasco County, Florida (about 20 miles north of the release pen) with Crane #2-01.

Spring 2003: Left Florida on 25 March, 2003 with Crane #2-01 to migrate north—ahead of any of the tiny Eastern flock. Arrived at Necedah on March 31 and spent the 2003 summer there. He and female #2-01 separated in spring 2003 after being together since migrating north on their own in spring 2002.

Fall 2003: Headed south by himself on November 7, 2003, and was reported back at his wintering spot in Pasco County, Florida on November 16.

Spring 2004: Left on spring migration March 13 or 14, 2004 together with #2-01, 5-02, 8-02, 16-02, and 17-02. PTT (satellite transmitter) readings indicated the group roosted in SW Indiana on March 22, but moved to DeKalb County, IL March 23 and stayed for the rest of the week. Arrived Necedah NWR on April 1, 2004. Male #1-01 separated from the group and spent the summer where he had lived the previous summer.

Fall 2004: He remained at or near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) until Nov. 28, when he left with Crane #2-02. The two remained with large numbers of Sandhill cranes in frozen, flooded farm fields in Jasper County, Indiana, until December 16. Then they moved to nearby Jasper-Pulaski SWFA. They resumed migration Dec. 17. On December 18th they were tracked to roost with approximately 100 Sandhills in Monroe County, Kentucky. They completed their migration Dec. 20, arriving in Pasco County, FL. This is the same wintering location used by #1-01 during his previous two winters. He shows signs of pair-bonding with female #2-02, who is one year younger.

Spring 2005: Pair 1-01 and 2-02 left their Florida winter location on March 12 or 13. Confirmed back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 29. They established a territory on the refuge. They remained on their territory except on April 15, when they spent much of the day away. But on April 16, #2-02 was sitting as if incubating in the pair’s marsh territory. On April 17 the two birds left and spent the day in farmland south of the refuge. A check of the nest site indicated that one egg had been laid, but it had apparently been destroyed during the previous night. (It is quite common for first-time breeders to leave the egg unprotected). The pair did not return to the refuge until April 21. They stayed the summer on or near their territory at Necedah NWR.

Fall 2005: Breeding pair #1-01 and #2-02 began migration November 17 along with #8-02. On Nov. 30, #1-01 and his mate #2-02 returned to the same Citrus County, Florida area where they wintered at last year.

Spring 2006: #1-01 (and mate #2-02) left on migration from Citrus County, FL on March 12. They arrived at Wisconsin’s Necedah NWR on March 18, where they settled on their old territory. They began incubating on April 7, but the eggs were lost to a predator by April 16.

Fall 2006: #1-01 and #2-02 began migration from their territory on Wisconsin’s Necedah NWR on November 11. They made it to northeastern Illinois (probably Will or Kankakee County). The pair resumed migration on 12 November and continued with Sandhills to Jasper-Pulaski SFWA, Indiana. Arrived Citrus County, FL on Nov. 23!

Spring 2007: Reported migrating on March 13 with his mate, #2-02. He was confirmed back at Necedah NWR on March 26. He was seen alone the next two days. Where is his mate, #2-02? By summer she was still missing and presumed dead. The refuge helpers and pilots said #1-01 seemed sad and lonely. He showed up often at the training site to watch and hang out with the 2007 chicks-in-training. He flew with the ultralight and chicks a few times but the pilots had to chase him off so the chicks would pay attention to their costumed parents.

Fall 2007: Began migration from Wisconsin on November 22, 2007. Stayed at Jasper-Pulaski FWA in northwestern Indiana until departing again on November 29. Wintered in Florida.

Spring 2008: The first bird from the first year of the reintroduction was the first of the flock to arrive in spring 2008! He left Florida on February 29. Flying between 45 and 50 miles per hour, he covered 230 miles and roosted that night in Georgia. He arrived at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin on March 14, all by himself. Male 1-01 remained on his territory on Upper Rice Pool, Necedah NWR,
through March 30. On April 1 he was displaced from his long-held territory by #7-03 (who was temporarily with female W1-06). Male #1-01 then moved off the Refuge to the Mill Bluff area of Wisconsin. He occasionally returned to his former territory on Upper Rice Pool.

Fall 2008: Began migration from Necedah NWR on November 15, as did several other first cranes to leave that fall. Wintered in Citrus County, Florida.

Spring 2009: Began migration from Citrus County, Florida, on March 5. Reported back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin by March 19! He spent the summer unpaired with any female (see Spring 2008, above).

Fall 2009: Crane #1-01 was observed on Necedah NWR, Juneau County, Wisconsin, on December 4 and likely began migration on the following day. He was reported with 3 Sandhills on his winter area Citrus County, Florida, on December 23.

Spring 2010: His nonfunctional transmitter was replaced on February 25 when he was still at Chassahowitzka NWR. Male #1-01 began northward migration March 20 and was detected back on Necedah NWR on March 24.

Fall 2010: Male #1-01 was detected at his usual wintering location in Citrus County, Florida, during an aerial survey on December 3.

Spring 2011: He apparently began migration on March 8. He was reported back at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin March 21. By the end of May he was occasionally associating with female #14-09. The two were still together the end of August.

Fall 2011: A crane believed to be male #1-01, with a crane that might have been his new mate #14-09, was observed on a pond at his wintering location in Citrus County, Florida, by a neighborhood mother and 12-year-old son on December 5. They had been watching for #1-01 to return to his usual area. The landowner believes #1-01 has been coming to the same area for about 5 years. “He used to crack us all up in the neighborhood. The first couple of years the trackers would remove him and relocate him to more suitable habitat with more cranes. He kept coming back here! He likes the Sandhill cranes, especially one certain pair. He chases any others away, including the young ones of the pair. He mostly stays across the street from our home, on a neighbor’s property where there’s a big pond. When he returns, he flies right over us and calls loudly to announce his arrival. We very much love that Crazy Crane!”

Photo: C. Reichenbach

Spring 2012: Male #1-01 and and his mate #14-09 were still in Citrus County, FL as of March 1, 2012. Tracker Eva Szyszkoski (ICF) reported them back at their Wisconsin summering territory in Juneau County on March 23. They had probably arrived March 22. The pair built a nest but did not lay any eggs in the 2012 breeding season. They were together on their territory all summer, fall and winter.

Winter 2012: Male #1-01 and his mate #14-09 wintered in Citrus County, Florida—this male’s usual wintering spot.

Spring 2013: Male #1-01 and his mate #14-09 completed spring migration to Wisconsin on March 29.

Fall 2013: Male #1-01 and mate #14-09 migrated south to Citrus County, Florida for the winter.

Spring 2014: Crane pair 1-01/14-09 began migration from Citrus County, Florida, on 14/15 March. They were reported in Bartow County, Georgia, on 16 March and Larue County, Kentucky, on 21 March. They were back in Wisconsin by May, but male #1-01 chose a poor place to hang around; he was captured at the Volk Field National Guard Base in Juneau County on May 28.

On May 28, 2014, male 1-01 was removed from the population of the new Eastern Migratory Flock because of his repeated and un-correctable behaviors, which caused hazards to him and also to aircraft using the Volk Field National Guard Base. Unfortunately, a neighbor had begun feeding this crane – something we strongly discourage. He will now live the rest of his life in captivity at Zoo New England in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Crane #2-01 

Sex: Female
Hatch Date:
May 10, 2001

Personality Characteristics: Largest female. Often aggressive and would sometimes challenge the handlers. Has a damaged beak from injury—the upper and lower mandibles do not meet at the tip. This makes her recognizable in the air where she is often in the lead position. Tends to attack the vet. Voice is starting to change to adult voice. “Alarm” calls with slight crackle.


Spring 2002: Returned to Necedah in a group of four, arriving April 19, 2002 after leaving Florida April 9. Paired up with Crane #1-01 for the summer, hanging around the training site where the 17 new hatch year 2002 chicks were being trained to fly with the ultralight. Pilots and “swamp monster” drove them off many times.

Fall 2002: Astonished the pilots by showing up with #1-01 and joining in flight with the ultralight chicks and aircraft on November 24 in Tennessee. They flew five miles before breaking off to continue on their own! Spent the 2002-03 winter in Pasco County, Florida (about 20 miles north of the release pen) with Crane #1-01.

Spring 2003: Left Florida on 25 March with Crane #1-01 to migrate north—ahead of any of the Eastern flock in spring 2003. (As of March 8, 2003, her radio transmitter and PTT had both stopped functioning so she is no longer trackable.) Confirmed back at Necedah on March 29/April 1, 2003, along with Crane #1-01 from her cohort. These two separated later in spring 2003; they had been together since migrating north on their own in spring 2002.

Fall 2003: She left Necedah on Nov. 13, along with seven of the 2002 birds. This group of eight arrived at the pen site at Chassahowitzka November 21, 2003. During their entire journey south, the group stayed together and was never seen migrating with Sandhill cranes. This group moved to Pasco County shortly after arriving in FL. Together with four other birds, she split from the group and moved to the same area of Pasco Cty. where she spent last winter with male #1 from the 2001 cohort.

Spring 2004: Left on spring migration March 13 or 14, together with 1-01, 5-02, 8-02, 16-02, and 17-02. PTT readings indicated the group roosted in SW Indiana on March 22, but moved to DeKalb County, IL March 23 and stayed for the rest of the week. Arrived Necedah NWR on April 1, 2004 but later spent time in Jackson County and elsewhere. Returned to Necedah May 18, where she is hanging out with #8-02.

Fall 2004: The pair #2-01 and #8-02 began migration from Necedah NWR on Dec. 1st. Checked and confirmed near the intersection of Will, Grundy, and Kankakee Counties, Illinois, on Dec. 14th. Detected in flight just east of Decatur, Alabama on the afternoon of Dec. 23rd. They arrived at the winter pen site on the afternoon of Dec. 30th.

Spring 2005: #2-01 and #208 departed on migration from Pasco County, Florida on March 19 and were back at Necedah on March 31! The pair broke up back at Necedah as soon as they finished migration. In fall, #2-01 let the DAR chicks hang out with her. Will she help these new chicks learn their migration route?

Fall 2005: Began migration November 17 with #12-02. They later joined whoopers #3-02 and#17-03, and #1-03 and #11-03 in flight. They roosted on a pond in Will County, Illinois. The group migrated Nov. 18 to a point SW of Indianapolis, Indiana. They remain in Marion County, IN since Nov. 26. The pair arrived on a ranch in Pasco County, Florida on December 22. They hung out with #5-01, #4-02, #8-02, #5-02 and #13-03, particularly on roost at night. They were often with or near large groups of migratory Sandhill cranes.

Spring 2006: Crane #2-01 (together with #8-02 and #12-02) began migration from a cattle ranch in Pasco County, Florida on February 28. They were reported in Greene County, Indiana, from March 7-12. Crane #2-01 and #12-02 arrived at their Wisconsin summer home March 18 or 19 and are on territory. Then #2-01 left #12-02 on March 25. She was confirmed in Adams County, WI April 17 in the same general area where she was found in April of 2005.

Fall 2006: Left Wisconsin on Nov. 19 and made it to Indiana that night. After she arrived in Florida, she stayed at the Chassahowitza pen site until December 27 but then left for other winter territory in Citrus County.

Spring 2007: Began migration March 5 (with #16-02). They were confirmed back at the Wisconsin refuge on March 26, but separated. (On that day, Crane #2-01 was unison calling and doing territorial behavior with #7-03, who was one of the first arrivals back on the refuge.) After the new “Class of 2007” ultralight chicks arrived in Wisconsin,#2-01 showed up almost daily at the chicks’ pen site.

Fall 2007: Began migration from Wisconsin on November 22, 2007. Found at Greene County, Indiana, on November 24. Still present when last checked at the end of December.

Spring 2008: apparently began migration from Green County, Indiana, on March 2. She was confirmed back at Necedah NWR, on March 23.

On October 12, 2008 the decomposed remains of #2-01 were found near the edge of a marsh on Necedah NWR. She was likely killed by a predator. She had been in the area all spring, unlike previous years when she usually spent spring in nearby Adams County. She was frequently observed until mid-July. At that time, pair #11-02 and #17-02 moved in on her from their usual territory during changes due to construction on the refuge. The pair drove #2-01 off her territory. Experts think her death happened shortly after pair #11-02/17-02 displaced her to a nearby marsh. Tracking data are being examined to determine approximate date of death.

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Crane #3-01

Sex: Male
Hatch Date:
May 11, 2001

Personality Characteristics: A good bird in that he was unremarkable and no problem.

History: Died in October 2001 wind storm during first journey south. The pen was knocked down by high winds and the escaped bird hit a power line while flying in the dark. 

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Crane #4-01

Sex: Male
Hatch Date: May 12, 2001

Personality Characteristics: Also has a funny beak, though not as funny as #2-01. Has recovered from earlier training wing injury. Can fly well but has a bad habit of dropping out of the formation and encourages Crane #6-01 to leave too. Not allowed to fly again on the first migration south due to this behavior and the fear he would lead other birds astray. Travels in a shipping container to each site but spends the remainder of each day and night with his flock mates. The flight team hopes this bonding will help him fly north with the flock in spring

History:. Killed December 17, 2001 by a bobcat after being on the Chassahowitzka wintering grounds just a few days.

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Crane #5-01

Sex: Male
Hatch Date:
May 13, 2001

Personality Characteristics: As a chick, got very aggressive when anyone other than Dan entered the pen. (He was fine with Dan.) Second most dominant bird and definitely the “policeman” of the Class. He approached and checked anyone that entered the pen. Often aggressive to handlers that wore different shoes or boots. If a handler held the puppet in a submissive position, #5-01 challenged it. Dropped out of the ultralight southbound migration flight between sites 11 and 12 but was retrieved. Successfully completed the ultralight-led migration and learned the route.

Spring 2002: Returned to Necedah in the group of four, arriving April 19, 2002 after leaving Florida April 9. Migrated to Florida in fall 2002 and spent the winter in the pen at Chassahowitzka with the new 2002 chicks that migrated in year two of the ultralight project. He turned into a bit of a bully.

Spring 2003: Departed Chassahowitzka with the sixteen 2002 chicks on spring migration April 1. He stayed with several of the 2002 chicks throughout the migration north. Spent summer 2003 about 10-12 miles from Necedah, in the company of three 2002 females (#4-02, #9-02 and #18-02) and returned to the Refuge the last week in October 2003.

Fall 2003: Trackers found him flying with younger cranes #4-02 and #18-02 on Nov. 20, 2003 while the birds were in flight over Georgia. In an unusual event, they flew after dark, roosting in SW Georgia. On November 21, 2003, these three landed at the pen site at Chassahowitzka. They later flew to Hernando County, but returned on Jan. 8, 2004 to the pen site. They settled in and harassed the Class of 2003 chicks in the pen, defending and taking over a feeding station! After Crane #14-02 showed up at the pen site on Feb. 7, 2004, the three older birds already there did more unison calling and chased her, too.

Spring 2004: Left on spring migration March 27, 2004, together with #18-02 and #4-02. They were tracked and landed to roost in Crisp Cty, GA nearly 9 hours later. Stopped overnight in Indiana April 1. Confirmed back at Necedah (with #18-02 and #4-02) on April 7, 2004.

Fall 2004: Reported at Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, TN Nov. 10 and remained there (in bad weather) until at least Nov. 24. Observed at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Florida on Nov. 26. Checked in at the pen site but moved on after finding nobody home and no free food. Together with Crane #4-02, he remained on a cattle ranch in Hernando County, FL until Dec. 17, when the pair returned to the pen site at Chassahowitzka NWR. These two have been together since #4-02’s first spring migration. Will they become mates?

Spring 2005: Left Chassahowitzka pen site in Florida, along with #4-02 and the remaining chick #12-04 on March 30. No aggression by the two older cranes toward the younger one, reported ICF trackers who observed the trio at their first night roost in Georgia. On April 5 the two adults left juvenile #12-04. On April 6, #5-01 and #4-02 completed migration to Mill Bluff State Park, Juneau County, Wisconsin. On April 7 the pair moved to their territory on Necedah NWR.

Fall 2005: On Aug. 22, Cranes #5-01 and #4-02 moved from their territory on Sprague Pool (Necedah NWR) to Mill Bluff State Park, WI. This was the first movement from their territory since May 20. They stayed in the park and were often with other whooping cranes in the area. The pair began migration on November 21. They were seen at their last year’s winter home on a ranch in Hernando County, FL on Nov. 27. They continued to the chick pen at Chassahowitzka NWR but left Nov. 30, returning to their former ranch site. The pair returned to Chassahowitzka Dec. 14 from nearby Stafford Lake and remained to roost at the pen site. They moved around a bit, staying in nearby counties, and were on a Pasco County ranch with a few other whoopers by end of December.

Spring 2006: Began migration (with #4-02) March 20-22. No reports received during migration. They were found back on their territory on Necedah NWR, on April 6.

Fall 2006: Left Wisconsin on Nov. 19 (with #4-02 and #5-02) and made it to NE Illinois. Found in Hernando County, FL on Nov. 24 with #4-02. He appeared alone at the Chassahowitzka pen site on Jan 8 and stayed. His mate, #4-02, was found dead on Jan. 16, 2007 in Hernando County.

Back in a Pen! The winter of 2007, #5-01 was a regular visitor to the pen site, as though keeping watch over the chicks. After the death of his mate and the Feb. 2nd storm deaths of the 17 chicks at the pen site, he kept dropping in on “Peepers,” a captive female whooping crane at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Was he looking for a new mate, or a free lunch? The team captured #5-01 on Feb. 1 and moved him to a pen with a top net at the Halpata Preserve until they can figure out what to do with him. Guess who’s in the pen next to him at Halpata? Survivor chick #15-06, also taken there for his safety. Some people are calling the two cranes Flirty and Maverick. Guess which is which?

Freedom Again. On Feb. 23, 5-01’s radio transmitter’s broken antenna was replaced. Two days later, Dr. Richard Urbanek (USF&W) and Sara Zimorski (ICF), co-chairs of the Tracking & Monitoring Team, released #5-01 from the Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve and he was taken to the Paynes Prairie area for release. He remained there with several other Whooping cranes that were currently stopping there. (Before #5-01’s release, the two captive birds at Homosassa State Park were removed from open display just in case he decided to re-visit that location in search of food or a lady friend.)

Spring 2007: Began migration on March 28 with #19-05. They were in Georgia on March 29. They arrived Apr. 16 on #5-01’s old territory at Wisconsin’s Necedah NWR!

Fall 2007: Began migration from Wisconsin on November 21. Arrived on Hiwassee WR in Tennessee, on November 24. Arrived at Chassahowitzka NWR pen site in Florida, on November 28. Moved to Stafford Lake, Hernando County, on the following day. He was the third bird of the Eastern flock to complete fall migration. Returned to Chass pen site Dec. 12 but moved to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park on Dec. 13 because he was attracted to the resident female crane on display there — just like last winter! Trackers immediately captured him and took him to the pen site at Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve. Three days later they transported #5-01 to Hiwassee WR in Meigs County, Tennessee, because almost all unpaired females in the Eastern flock were there. He was still at Hiwassee (Tennessee) at the end of December. Everyone hopes he’ll choose a “girlfriend” from among those females so he doesn’t go back to the female who lives in captivity at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park! When observed in late winter, he was associating with #20-04.

Spring 2008: Male #5-01 and female #20-04 were reported in a flock of sandhills in Warren County, Kentucky, from March 6 until they resumed migration on March 8. Confirmed home at Necedah NWR March 30, but trackers reported on April 8 that the pair bond established during the winter between 5-01 and 20-04 had dissolved; they separated during or at the end of migration. On April 10 male #5-01 was seen with female #1-05. They occasionally returned to the territory of #5-01 on Sprague Pool at Necedah NWR.

Fall 2008: Left Necedah NWR Nov. 20 with mate #1-05. The pair arrived together at Hernando County, Florida by December 27. Both had nonfunctional transmitters and could not be tracked. The pair was observed at the Chassahowitzka NWR pensite January 18. On January 20 they appeared at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where two captive Whooping cranes live. They were captured and transferred (again!) to the Marion County Halpata-Tastanaki Preserve pen site. Their old transmitter batteries were replaced on January 21, 2009. The pair were then crated, transported, and released in Alachua County, FL on January 22. They returned to Hernando County January 30 only to reappear at the Chass pen site the following day — and found the Class of 2008 had arrived! The next morning, February 1, they returned to the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park and were again captured and transported to the Halpata pen site. This time they were taken to Meigs County, Tennessee, where they were released on February 4.

Spring 2009: Cranes #5-01, 1-05, 6-05, and DAR 37-07 were confirmed by radio signal near Armstrong Bend, Tennessee on March 8. Male #5-01 was confirmed back at Necedah (with mate #1-05) by the end of March or beginning of April. As far as experts can tell, this is #5-01’s first nesting, even though he’s often been paired during breeding seasons before. The nest failed on April 24 before the eggs could hatch. The pair remained together in the area all summer, but their pair bond ended after September 26 when #16-03 stole 5-01’s mate away from him. Crane #5-01 found himself alone again — but only until October 26 when #1-05 returned to him two days after leaving #16-03!

Fall 2009: Together again, #5-01 and his previous mate, #1-05, began migration Nov. 26 and were found at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee, on November 29. They stayed six weeks. The pair landed in February at their old pen site at Chass, where the new chicks live. The trackers dreaded seeing #5-01 show up. Why? He has a history of going to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to visit the captive Whooping crane pair there. Last year, he took #1-05 there with him. For trackers, that event would mean they must AGAIN capture and relocate this male (and his mate). Trackers hope he won’t try a visit to Homosassa Springs Park again this year!

Spring 2010: Adult pair #5-01 and #1-05 and the nine remaining chicks at Chass were beginning to show signs of migration restlessness on March 13. Eva said, “We are not sure if the adult pair will entice the chicks to leave earlier then they would otherwise. We would expect#5-01 and 1-05 to be leaving at any time, as they will want to get back to Necedah NWR to establish their territory on the refuge for nesting season. It was a sad discovery when the remains of his mate #1-05 were found at a roost site. She had been killed by a bobcat there the night of March 18. Male #5-01 left the Chass pen area on migration on March 27! He was alone, and was tracked on day one to Colquitt County, GA by Matt. The trackers will need to turn their attention now to the chicks, but #5-01 was off to a good start. On April 1 he was detected back on his territory at Sprague Pool, Necedah NWR! He was with female #14-09 during the summer.

Fall 2010: Male #5-01 was found at Hiwassee WR in Tennessee on November 28, where he remained at least through Dec. 2. He was next reported in Hernando County during an aerial survey on December 21. He roosted at the Chassahowitzka pen site on January 7. But on January 8, 2011 this 9-year-old male once again dropped in on the female captive crane called Peepers, who lives at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida. He can’t seem to stay away from her. So he was captured and removed from the wild. Now he will live in captivity with Peepers at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida. The park houses animals for display and education.

Here’s a summary from when the trouble began:

Male #5-01 had been looking for love since winter 2007, when his first mate was found dead on the pair’s Florida wintering grounds. He kept dropping in on “Peepers,” a captive female whooping crane at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. In 2009, he lost a second soulmate when a bobcat killed her. Still, he remembered Peepers. But each time flew to the park (SIX times in all!), he had to be captured and removed for the safety of park visitors and also himself. On some visits he even landed in the bears’ enclosure! With his January 2011 visits, WCEP leaders knew they had to change things. They decided to remove nine-year-old #5-01 from the wild population for three reasons: his repeated visits to Peepers and the trouble he caused for the tracking crew and at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park; his lack of breeding success; and the large number of male cranes already in the flock’s wild population.
He must really love Peepers,” said Eva, the tracker who often had to capture and relocate #5-01. Now he will get to stay with Peepers. Because #5-01 is totally healthy, experts feel he will form a better bond with Peepers than Peepers had with Rocky*, the male companion crane in the enclosure with her until now. Crane #5-01 will now be known as “Levi” and will take Rocky’s place with Peepers. “Crane 5-01 looks great and is happy to be allowed with Peepers. It seems the feeling is mutual,” reported Wildlife Care Supervisor Susan Lowe.

Rocky is a friend — but not a mate. A throat condition makes it hard for Rocky to make crane calls, and crane calling is an important part of bonding for Whooping crane pairs.

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Crane #6-01 

Sex: Male
Hatch Date: May 15, 2001

Personality Characteristics: Dropped out of the flight on the first day with Crane #4-01 but managed to complete the flight after much effort from pilots Deke and Bill. Also dropped out of the flight between sites 10 and 11 and was finally retrieved the next day.


Spring 2002: Returned to Necedah in the group of four survivors, arriving April 19, 2002 after leaving Florida April 9. Migrated south in Fall 2002 and stayed at Hiwassee Refuge in Tennessee for several weeks before finishing his migration. Arrived in Florida January 4, 2003, briefly joining sandhill cranes and female Crane #7-01 in Madison County Florida before moving a few miles away from them. He departed Madison Co. FL on Feb. 15, 2002 and was seen flying over southern Georgia among a flock of Sandhill cranes. Trackers lost him until he was spotted by ICF Intern Colleen Satyshur on March 26, 2003 in Dodge County, Wisconsin. Colleen said: “After so many reports coming in from birders and refuge biologists, it was exciting to finally confirm the sightings of #6-01. I followed #6-01 south in the fall, so it was like old times tracking him again.” Then his radio antenna broke so he could not be tracked.

Fall 2003: After departing Necedah Refuge on May 10, 2003, wasn’t seen again until the last week of October. He was back at Necedah, and left on fall 2004 migration on November 7. He was staging with sandhill cranes in Columbia County, WI on Nov. 19, and was seen again arriving late on Nov. 20 at the Jasper Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area in north Indiana. He showed up Jan 3, 2004 in Alachua County, FL.

Spring 2004: He left Alachua Cty. FL on Feb. 23, 2004 and his location, as well as female #7-01’s, was unknown until March 9, 2004. He was seen migrating over Gainesville, FL with a flock of sandhill cranes. March 13 he was observed in a flock of 21 sandhills migrating through Monroe County, Indiana. On March 18 a whooper (#6-01) was spotted flying east to west over Interstate 94 at mile marker 141—on a day when it was snowing gangbusters at Necedah NWR. On March 21 and 22, #6-01 was confirmed back in Wisconsin, the first to return in spring 2003 AND spring 2004. He stayed in Jackson County in summer 2004.

Fall 2004: Began migration from southeastern Clark/northeastern Jackson Counties, Wisconsin, on November 21. He was spotted on a cattle ranch in Lake County, Florida, on December 13. He remained there with migratory sandhill cranes as well as some of the non-migratory Whooping cranes that live there year round. In February he moved to Levy County and then to Alachua County, with migratory sandhill cranes.

Spring 2005: A crane believed to be #6-01 was reported with migrating sandhill cranes in Meigs County, TN on 7 March. Local residents of Jackson County, Wisconsin reported observing him since March 30. He was seen paired and nest building with a sandhill crane on April 9. (He has associated mainly with sandhill cranes. The small size (five returning birds) of this 2001 cohort resulted in limited chances for social bonding with other whooping cranes by the first individuals (#7-01 and #6-01) to separate from the group. When checked on 22 April, #6-02 was found hidden and alone in a wet area in the edge of a woods near his territory. He had fractured his left tarsus sometime between April 12 and 22. Because he was unable to bear weight on the fractured leg, he remained secluded in woody cover and was not roosting in water. The monitoring team watched him closely through a spotting scope. They wanted to see if supplemental food could be provided without disturbing the bird or attracting predators (wolves, coyotes). In some cranes, fractures have healed without human intervention. They all hoped #6-01’s leg would heal by itself. He was last observed alive on April 29. On May 3, 2005 crane #6-01 was found dead in a wetland at the edge of a wooded area in Jackson County, Wisconsin. He had been killed by a predator, most likely within 2 days before his remains were discovered. This was the 9th death among 53 birds released during the first 4 years of the reintroduction. Six of those mortalities happened within 2004-2005.

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Crane #7-01

Sex: Female
Hatch Date:
May 17, 2001

Personality Characteristics: Subservient bird that dropped out between stopover #5 and #6 and between stopover #11 and #12 of the ultralight-led migration. She was retrieved and completed the migration just fine. She kept to herself and was “low bird” in the pecking order. Later, she became elusive and independent.


Spring 2002: Left Florida April 12 in the flock of five survivors, but split off over Tennessee to continue the migration all by herself. She was last to arrive back at the Necedah site: May 3, 2002. She spent the 2002 summer about 75 miles from Necedah, in the company of sandhill cranes.

Fall 2002: She was the first of this group to migrate to Florida, arriving at her old pen November 22. She moved and lived with sandhill cranes in Madison County, Florida for the winter.

Spring 2003: She left Florida sometime between Feb. 18 and March 1, 2002. She returned for summer 2003 to her favorite place at Wisconsin’s Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.

Fall 2003: She was identified November 16 at Hiwassee Refuge in TN, and again (still at Hiwassee) Nov. 21, along with female crane #1-02.

Spring 2004: She was not seen again until March 12, 2004, when the Kaldenbachs of Roane County, TN reported a sighting and sent a photo to Operation Migration. She has a nonfunctional transmitter so cannot be tracked. She seems to like playing hide and seek! Identified by her color bands with four sandhill cranes in Starke County, Indiana (near the Jasper-Pulaski State Wildlife Area) on March 26, 2004. Seen on March 27 with sandhills in Cook County, Illinois. Confirmed “home” April 11, 2004 at Horicon Refuge in Wisconsin, where she spent the two previous summers. She remains un-trackable because of a dead  battery in her transmitter.

Fall 2004: On Nov. 8 the elusive, untrackable #7-01 was found— thanks to the radio signal of crane #18-04 detected in flight. As the airborne tracking team observed #18-04 amid a flock of sandhill cranes, they also noticed another Whooping crane—#7-01—in the flock! Young 18-04 who was unable to make the first migration with his ultralight flock, had joined up with these other migrating cranes. However, again, as roost time neared, 18-04 landed along the Cumberland River in Tennessee, while 7-01 continued slightly farther downstream. Both stayed at their selected locations on Nov. 9th due to poor migration conditions. Crane #7-01 was at Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, TN on Nov. 10, with several other “ultra-whoopers” from the new Eastern flock. On Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge with a wintering Sandhill flock most of the winter, but a possible sighting of #7-01 took place in Hardin County, Kentucky in early March 2005.

Spring 2005: She turned up at her usual summer home—Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Dodge County, WI on March 14, 2005. But on April 13, she was confirmed in a sedge marsh 20 miles east of Necedah NWR! She was in a group containing whooping crane #2-01 and four sandhill cranes. Until now, Crane #7-01 had not been at Necedah NWR since May 4, 2002 after completing her first spring migration. After hanging out with #2-01 and some sandhill cranes for the next several weeks, she was spotted back at the Horicon Marsh in the territory she has occupied for the last four summers. Joe Duff pointed out, “It is interesting to note that as she approached breeding maturity this spring (2005), she did return close to the Necedah area. It is almost as if the urge to find a mate brought her back, but it was not strong enough to bring her all the way home. We will have to see what happens next (2006) breeding season.” She apparently remained on Horicon NWR and nearby farm fields all summer. Due to a broken transmitter, she can’t be tracked.

Fall 2005: Confirmed visually at Jasper-Pulaski SWA, northwestern Indiana, November 17. This is a major stopover area for migrating eastern sandhill cranes, and about 15,000 sandhills were there on this date. She was next reported at the end of November at Hiwassee NWR (TN), when the 2005 ultralight chicks and other cranes were also there. She was seen again on Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, on January 5, 2006, Feb. 1 and again on Feb. 8. A whooping crane believed to be #7-01 was reported with large numbers of migrating sandhills in Indiana on February 15! Her transmitter is nonfunctional, and she cannot be tracked.

Spring 2006: She apparently began migration in mid-February from her wintering area at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee. She was reported on March 9 in Indiana, with migrating sandhill cranes. A crane in IL on March 11 may have been #7-01 and a reported crane in WI March 15-20 could have been #7-01. Confirmed April 17 in Adams County, WI. Along with #2-01, she was in the same general area where both birds were found in April of 2005. They were not together, and #2-01 tried several times unsuccessfully to chase #7-01 from the field. So far, 7-01 has summered alone each year in the Horicon, WI area. She has not been electronically tracked since her transmitter stopped working in April 2003. A banded whooping crane believed to be #7-01 was reported in a large sandhill flock near Horicon NWR in Dodge County, WI on October 13.

Fall 2006: Crane #7-01 apparently began migration from Wisconsin’s Horicon NWR area and arrived at Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife area on October 28. Her transmitter does not work, and she cannot be tracked. This photo shows her (far right) on Nov. 12 among staging sandhill cranes in Jackson County, Indiana. She was near direct-autumn-release chicks #26-06 and #28-06! These three cranes, all from the new eastern flock, did not associate. She was there on Dec. 7, but in January an unidentified crane reported from Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee, may have been #7-01.

Spring 2007: An unconfirmed sighting on March 2 in Fond du Lac County, WI may have been #7-01. Trackers think she migrated from her wintering area in TN, but her transmitter is nonfunctional so visual sightings are all they can rely upon. On March 26 she was reported in a Marsh in Adams County, WI.

Fall 2007: She spent the summer with Sandhill cranes in Wisconsin on Horicon NWR and nearby farm fields in Dodge County. She left Wisconsin after November 18. A bird with no signal was observed at Hiwassee WR on November 28, and this may have been 7-01. On Dec. 2 she was confirmed in another part of Meigs County, Tennessee. She was still there at the end of December.

Spring 2008: She was reported with migrating sandhills on Indiana’s Muscatatuck NWR on February 26. Next reported with migrating sandhills in Starke County, Indiana, March 8-11. She arrived back at her usual summering grounds on Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin on March 27! By April 3 she had returned to Adams County, and on April 5 she was observed associating with #6-05 at that location. The romance may be tabled, however, because a Whooping crane believed to be #7-01 was reported near Horicon NWR, Fond du Lac and Dodge Counties, in early June.

Fall 2008: She was with sandhills in Adams County Wisconsin on October 16, and next found at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee on November 26. Last confirmed there on January 10, 2009. This appears to be her usual wintering area. (Her transmitter does not work so she can’t be tracked.)

Spring 2009: She was reported on a migration stopover in Jasper County, Indiana during March 10-15. An unconfirmed report at Horicon NWR in Dodge County, WI, if accurate, may have been of #7-01. Great news came when this lone female temporarily paired up with male #6-05 in Adams County (see spring 2008, above). Would they mate so #7-01 would finally nest and lay eggs? They were together by May 2 but, alas, separated by May 12. By May 20, female #7-01 returned to a previous summer location at Horicon NWR in Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac County. It was another summer with no mate and no chicks.

Fall 2009: She was still at Horicon NWR, Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties, on November 25 but she was on her wintering area at Armstrong Bend, Meigs County, Tennessee, on December 13.

Spring 2010: She was reported near Armstrong Bend in Rhea County, Tennessee, on March 17 and confirmed back in Wisconsin April 18. She was found in Adams county with #6-05 and HY2009 DAR 32, 37, and 40. She was last reported May 2, NE of Horicon NWR in Fond du Lac County, WI.

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Sex: Female
Hatch Date: May 22, 2001
Personality Characteristics: Injured her wing during early training while still at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Wing feathers grew in with deformities so she wasn’t suitable for migration. Removed from the study, she went to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo in fall, 2001.

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Crane #10-01

Sex: Female
Hatch Date: May 23, 2001

Personality Characteristics: Most subservient bird in the group; not aggressive to the costume. Has been seen in the lead position during flight, but is also known to occupy last position. Killed by a bobcat in January 2002, just weeks after arriving in Florida.

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Crane #11-01

Sex: Male
Hatch Date: May 24, 2001

Personality Characteristics: A good bird, loyal to the plane and the costume during training. Died September 11, 2001 shortly before migration from capture myopathy after the pre-migration health check and banding procedure earlier on that infamous day: 9/11

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