Whooping Crane #5-01 – His Love Story

Who doesn’t love a good romance story? Crane #5-01 from our very first class of Whooping cranes is a prime example of the ultimate love story; from tragedy to a happy ending.

He seems to be a bird that needs the company of a female. Some guys are destined to stay single but others just seem to pick up a gal one after another.

Early in his life, he hooked up with #4-02 in the spring of 2003. They travelled together from Florida to Wisconsin and back for 4 years until the untimely death of #4-02 in January of 2007. He must have been lonely as he started to spend time at Chassahowitzka pensite, seemingly keeping a watchful eye on the Class of 2006. That is until the storm of February 2nd took their lives.

He kept dropping in to visit Peepers a captive female at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, who incidentally already had a partner already, Rocky. Doesn’t it make you wonder how he even found her in the first place?

He was captured and held in a pen until the team could figure out what to do with lonely male. Near the end of February he was released at Paynes Prairie with several other Whooping cranes. Just to be on the safe side the two birds at Homosassa State Park were removed from open display in case he decided to fly over there for a visit. He made his way back to Wisconsin in the spring.

The following winter he stopped in to say “hi” to Peepers at Homosassa. This time however, trackers decided to move him to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, Tennessee where there were lots of unattached females to choose from. While he did strike up a friendship with #20-04, it wasn’t a lasting relationship. The typical, ‘it’s me, not you story’ with stories of his heart always returning to Peepers. However, back in Wisconsin he did find a new love; #1-05.

He must have told #1-05 about the irresistible Peepers because when they flew to Florida, he took her to meet Peepers. Trackers now captured not only #5-01 but #1-05 as well and took them both to Alachua County and released them together to only have them return to Homosassa a few days later. This time trackers took them to Meigs County, Tennessee; far away from Peepers.

He returned to Wisconsin with #1-05 and they tried to start a family but their nest failed before the eggs hatched. Obviously there was trouble in their relationship and they tried a separation, but after a brief fling with #16-03, #1-05 missed him so much she went back to him in October. They decided to give it another go and flew first to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge for a six week stay and then moved on to Florida. Not sure whose idea it was to go to Florida but that turned out to be a bad decision because after all the hard work they put into repairing their relationship #1-05 was predated by a bobcat. This guy just can’t catch a break.

He spent some time in the company of #14-09 during the summer but it wasn’t a relationship that was to last. Maybe after hearing his life story #14-09 decided she had better stay away from him. In the fall he moved on to Florida all by himself. Being single again, and in Florida… guess who he decided to pay a visit to? PEEPERS!

He declared his everlasting love to her and finally the trackers decided they just couldn’t keep these two apart any longer. The decision was made to let him stay with Peepers at Homosassa. He was finally allowed to drop his goofy number and was given a “real” name – Levi (501 Levi jeans?).

(Above clip shows the two in their enclosure. Credit: J. Bellemer)

As we all know, threes a crowd, so Rocky was removed from the enclosure. Levi is now with his real true love, Peepers and they are living happily ever after. Rocky was placed at the National Zoo near Washington DC.

Like this love story? Why not get your very own #5-01 Moppet? For a limited time, these hand-crafted keepsakes made by Mary O’Brien from old costumes worn by our team are available at just $100.

Get yours soon before they’re all gone!

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  1. Jane R March 22, 2018 7:00 am

    So great to see this couple at the park yesterday. Thanks to Operation Migration I knew their complicated story!

  2. Dana Courtney March 14, 2018 12:34 pm

    You are amazing and I followed your whole write-up/story. Your work keeps touching my heart! Thank you!!!

  3. Anne L. Ruh March 14, 2018 12:05 pm

    That is a wonderful story!

  4. Maggie Turk March 14, 2018 10:19 am

    That certainly is a true love story. Hope it continues for Levi and Peepers as it seems they are meant for each other for real. Just brings happy tears to my eyes . AH SPRING AND LOVE !!!

  5. Dorothy N March 14, 2018 10:00 am

    It’s a wonderful tale of “persistence pays off”!!

  6. Sandi March 14, 2018 8:49 am

    I’ve been following these two for some time, and I love this detailed story about Levi! So glad he was able to stay with Peepers! Didn’t they have an egg not that long ago? And the first whooping crane, Rocky, wasn’t able to make any noise to court Peepers with if I remember right…

    • Heather Ray March 14, 2018 9:21 am

      Great memory. Rocky is not able to vocalize. And the egg(s) produced by 5-01 and Peepers have been infertile.