Class of ’14 Whooping Cranes – The Plan

Last fall when the decision was made to transport the Class of ’14 Whooping cranes from Columbia County, Wisconsin to Carroll County, Tennessee, the Rearing & Release and Monitoring & Management teams of WCEP developed a set of guidelines which would be followed this spring.

The plan set out several options which would be considered, but the one that applies now because the juveniles did initiate a normal northward migration includes the following details to ensure they return to Wisconsin:

“Natural migration” – Birds begin migration in spring as usual and then either:

a)  The birds fly back to Wisconsin (best-case scenario), or
b) Birds fly as far north as Tennessee but do not maintain a ‘normal’ migration route (i.e. birds moving in a variety of directions but not towards WI or they don’t return to WI by May 15).

If the birds migrate to the latitude of the Tennessee site (36° 4’ N / 88° 22’ W), and either continue on the same trajectory to the northwest (ending up along the Mississippi River or beyond), or appear to be moving around in a variety of directions over the next seven favorable migration days, OM will continue to track the birds and consult with the M&M Team regarding plans to retrieve the birds within the next three to four days and relocate them to a release site in WI. Since intervention was required, the birds would be released in the vicinity of 2011-2013 birds located in the Wisconsin Rectangle.

Since arriving in southern Illinois, weather was a factor initially with rain and strong winds from every direction. Since last Tuesday they’ve flown four times: 1. From Saline, east to Gallatin County. 2. From Gallatin, northeast to White County and then southwest to Williamson County 3. From Williamson, north to Franklin County and 4. From Franklin, east to Union County, Kentucky.

We have consulted with the WCEP Monitoring & Management team and plans are being formulated to capture and relocate the juvenile cranes to Wisconsin.

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  1. AintThatAmerica April 29, 2015 2:09 pm

    What are the biological implications? Does this prove all is learned and there is no instinct on direction? What can we glean from this. I’m looking for the latest update and haven’t found anything yet; I have this problem each time it seems.

  2. Kay April 28, 2015 11:38 pm

    This evening, I feel very grateful that the youngsters won’t land on Wacker Drive or, maybe, Michigan Boulevard as they fumble their way on migration.

    It’s possible that they may try out a northerly route next. Unfortunately, if they incorrectly jig when they should jog, they could be in big trouble.

    Hurrah for the wisdom of OM!

  3. Pat C April 28, 2015 10:05 pm

    Excellent. Great news.
    I’m curious…. Is there some reason why they can’t be flown in, like they did flying south?

    • Mindy May 3, 2015 11:19 am

      Pat, I asked that also and OM says that it has been tried before on other Whoopers and when they get the age they are now, they will no longer follow the trike…..

  4. Jeannie Ulrich April 28, 2015 7:24 pm

    Thank you OM for your dedication and love for “our babies”. My prayers go with you all. Safe travels and return to Wisconsin. <3

  5. michele April 28, 2015 5:56 pm

    The Class of 14 were never birds to fly if any weather threatened in the direction they were supposed to go following the aircraft. It doesn’t surprise me they are waiting for the “perfect” flying day. OM did promise to help them back to their home and the plan is in place! Thank you all.

  6. Cheryl Murphy April 28, 2015 5:36 pm

    Wishing you a successful intervention and that all will arrive safely back in Wisconsin. Thanks to you for watching out for and caring for these wonderful birds.


  7. Kay Blackwood April 28, 2015 4:13 pm

    Would love to see their reaction when this takes place! The continuing updates from OM are truly appreciated!

  8. Mindy April 28, 2015 4:08 pm

    Thanks to OM and the WCEP and every person involved in this rescue…..And for your hard work and tireless efforts the entire year, a big Thank You as well. Praying for all of you in the task ahead…..May the Lord “make all your crooked places straight” and go before you. Safe journey north for teams and cranes!

  9. ffmn April 28, 2015 2:45 pm

    Surprise!! No, not really. What a learning step for OM and us re transporting via truck/crate. Who knew!! If it were only known WHAT ‘map’ is input into their brain when first flight south occurs. Good luck with the forthcoming challenge. Will be on pins and needles like everyone.

  10. Marilyn April 28, 2015 1:56 pm

    Thank you to everyone so committed to assisting these glorious creatures. Thank you for the hours and hours and hours and hours (shall I go on?) that you give from the heart to allow them to be wild, safe, and “knowing”. May you have a successful completion of this journey.

  11. Bikebrains April 28, 2015 1:54 pm

    Bring LOTS of grapes!

  12. Kasie April 28, 2015 1:54 pm

    In whatever manner the whooping cranes return to Wisconsin, my prayers are with them and with the entire OM team. Safe journey!

  13. Kay April 28, 2015 1:38 pm

    I keep reminding myself that one member of the class of 2014 made it safely to Wisconsin. The Two Fours led the way. I continue to be impressed that the rest of the class has stuck together, no matter what.

    I wonder if the Fab Five will be captured by using a pen filled with crane chow and, maybe, some grapes or blue crab (!). I can’t imagine trying to capture them in the field.

    I’m also wondering if the intervention will take place before Saturday, the first day that I’ve noticed that has good weather conditions for northward flying.

    I don’t need to wonder about OM. Each member of the team is WONDERFUL.

  14. ArtistLady April 28, 2015 12:01 pm

    Good Journey North! Thank you to everyone for all that you do! 🙂

  15. Dora Giles April 28, 2015 11:50 am

    It is great to know that the birds know they should be some place else, but sad that they haven’t had an older bird to continue to lead them home. Hopefully they will still respond to the “tumes” and will be easily crated for the remainder of trip back home. Have a safe trip and thanks as always for every update that you have time to give. Again, thanks for all you do for these birds.


  16. Reta April 28, 2015 11:02 am

    This makes me sad that they are needing help, but so grateful the help is there. They sound confused and must be so frustrated knowing they are to go somewhere, but knowing not where. Thanks for the updates and thank you for all you do.


  17. Ruth Mitchell April 28, 2015 10:42 am

    I KNEW you all would have a plan in place in case intervention was needed for our babies. Prayers for a safe capture and transport if it is indeed needed.

  18. Bristol Haughton April 28, 2015 10:29 am

    I have mixed feelings about this. Hope it works out. Good Luck Gang !

  19. birdlady9 April 28, 2015 10:26 am

    Thank you, Heather. This certainly highlights how important Operation Migration is in teaching the migratory route. Safe journey.

  20. Kay April 28, 2015 10:18 am

    My heart is filled with gratitude for the monitoring and fine care that OM has consistently shown these young birds. God speed on the final leg of their journey — this year!

  21. Richard P. Chase April 28, 2015 10:13 am

    So far it seems that they have done much better than it was thought they would. Lets just be proud that they have done so good and give them a wee bit of a nudge in the right direction. (Too bad that the male got antsy and left them behind, he should have been a gentleman and continued guiding them “home”.) 😉

    • Mindy April 28, 2015 4:13 pm

      Richard, I think 5-12’s hormones were calling…..But at least he took them past the TN mark and got them to IL….so grateful for his leadership…I think that was a big plus for them. And the two 4’s with Naughty Nellie too! Thank you older cranes!

  22. Matt April 28, 2015 9:39 am

    I think one thing has been proven here . Without the aircraft or cranes from earlier years to show them the way the first time going south, they won’t know the way back. Just amazing ! Thank You all who is involved in making this happen for the whooping cranes !

  23. Mollie Cook April 28, 2015 9:29 am

    Hugely appreciate you sharing this plan with all the chicklet parents…….we care about these birds & your mission so much.
    Please continue to keep us updated when possible. We are grateful for any news even if it is just a few sentences. Brooke & Colleen & all the team……we’re praying for this journey back to WI. Great!!

  24. Suzy Solutions April 28, 2015 9:19 am

    Anxiously waiting for an update on the young’ens!! Any news?

    • Heather Ray April 28, 2015 11:02 am

      Scroll down to yesterday’s update 😉

  25. Deane Bauman April 28, 2015 8:42 am

    Best of Luck!! Please consider transportation in an open top transport, so they can orient themselves with the sun.

    • Jeannie Ulrich April 28, 2015 7:16 pm

      Deane, that is a very interesting thought. I will be pondering it for a while.

  26. Sally Swanson April 28, 2015 8:29 am

    WOW! It takes a village, doesn’t it? You all are the greatest the way you care for the whooping cranes! Good Luck!


  27. Patricia Ewing April 28, 2015 8:24 am

    Thank you OM for all you do… you all are the BEST!

  28. Warrenwesternpa April 28, 2015 8:19 am

    Class of 14 Whooping Cranes – The Plan Heather Ray

    Good contingency! We were all wondering if the manual transport last fall would interrupt the proceedings. The birds built in travelogue knows something is different. Amazing Isn’t it?

  29. Linda Spyhalski April 28, 2015 8:10 am

    Thank you for the news! My thoughts and prayers rest upon these precious birds and all of you that work directly with them. Safe travels back to Wisconsin all!

  30. Bobbie April 28, 2015 8:08 am

    Thank you Operation Migration, you are all an amazing group of people, Looking forward to stories of the capture(s)! Sending good thoughts your way 🙂

  31. Marje Lloyd April 28, 2015 8:03 am

    wow, thats quite a challenge,! wishing OM and the recovery team all the luck in the world, and once again thanking all involved for the care of these burds

  32. Dana April 28, 2015 7:44 am

    Thank you soooo much for having thought this through. It is in Nature’s hands – with a LOT of help from you all – volunteers who are the best! Thanks for keeping us updated.


  33. maxgreenwing April 28, 2015 6:10 am


  34. Lin Greenhalgh April 28, 2015 6:10 am

    Thank you so much for all the energy and care expended in making sure our cranes get ‘home’. Safe journey to all.

  35. Patti April 28, 2015 6:02 am

    Best of luck with our babies!!! Get them home safely 🙂