We get a lot of requests from new followers asking about the crane numbers. There are a number of other questions as well but we’ll deal with the numbers for now and try to make sense of the system.

Each Whooping crane chick is assigned a number based on their hatch order. So, the first chick to hatch in any given year becomes number 1. The second chick to hatch is number 2 and so on until there are no more eggs left to hatch.

The second set of digits in the cranes’ number is the year in which it hatches. Number 1, who hatched in 2011 becomes number 1-11 and number 2 becomes number 2-11 and so on.

So, it would make sense that the two whooping crane chicks that hatched early last week would be Whooping cranes 1-12 and 2-12, right? NOT. It seems that this year the crane crew at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is also hatching out Sandhill cranes for another research project and three Sandhill eggs hatched prior to the Whooper eggs, securing them the numbers 1-12, 2-12 and 3-12.

So, the first two Whooping cranes destined for the ultralight-aircraft release project this year are numbered 4-12 and 5-12 and NOT 1-12 and 2-12. Confused yet?

Tune in later today or tomorrow morning for Geoff Tarbox’s first entry of the 2012 season! We’re thrilled that Geoff has decided to return for a 4th season and has been with the young cranes at Patuxent for the past week. He has promised me an update to tell us how many chicks there are currently and how they’re doing. Welcome back Geoff!

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