Sunday's for the Birds: The Story of Levi and Peepers

Levi and Peepers: photo by Barbara Neibrand from Homosassa, FL.
Sometimes whooping cranes, like people, are destined to be together; such is the case of two love-struck whoopers named Levi and Peepers. Levi, officially know as # 5-01, was part of the very first Operation Migration ultralight-guided migration program in 2001. For the first ten year of his life, Levi migrated back and forth from Wisconsin to Florida with the other ultralight-trained cranes. Peepers lived permanently at Homosassa Spring Wildlife Park in Florida where she resided with another captive crane Rocky. The park had high hopes that the couple would hit if off and produce little whoopers. It never happened. Rocky, as it turned out, was vocally challenged and could not produce the required unison call which reinforces pair-bonding. Thus, Peepers and Rocky became "just friends."
Levi's early love life was fraught with heartbreak. His first mate, was killed by a predator. Soon after, on a migration trip, he spotted Peepers in her luxury pad in the park. He stopped in for a visit, much to the chagrin of the OM team. He was captured and returned to the wild. It wasn't long before Levi hooked up with another wild female and all seemed well, until she was preyed upon by a bobcat. Once again, Levi consoled himself by returning to Peepers' pen to hang out for a while. Again, he was capture and removed. Five more times he came back and each time he was caged and taken away. When it became evident that Levi was not about to be separated from another mate, the OM Team gave up and let him stay. What happened to Rocky? Since three's a crowd, Rocky was sent to the Smithsonian National Zoo where the pressures of mating are nonexistent.
Peepers attending to her egg.
This spring, Levi and Peepers, built a nest and produced an egg. It's too early to tell if the egg is fertile, but if not, the romantic couple can try again next year.