Class of 2012

  

 

Two release methods were used in 2012: Ultralight-guided (Group One) and Direct Autumn Release (Group Two).

Group Three includes any successfully fledged wild hatched whooping cranes in the Eastern Migratory Population. 

Group One – Ultralight-guided Whooping cranes
4-12 5-12 6-12 7-12 10-12 11-12

Died Feb ’13

Died Jun ’15

Died Oct ’12

Presumed dead ’14

Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Whooping Cranes
12-12 13-12 14-12 15-12 16-12 17-12

Died ’13

Died ’13

Presumed dead ’14

Died ’13

Group Three – Wild Hatched Whooping cranes

Group 3 chicks are wild-born. Their parents raise them and teach them to migrate. This is the natural way cranes learn to migrate. One day, this flock will be large enough for wild-born parents to take over. Then human-assisted migration will no longer be needed.

Nine chicks hatched in the new Eastern flock in spring 2012. Two survived to fledge and migrate. They were W1-12 and W8-12. Sadly, both were lost the following year in October.
W1-12
(Died Oct ’13)
W8-12
(Died Oct ’13)

All Whooping cranes released in 2012 under the aircraft-guided method learned a migration route by following Operation Migration’s aircraft from Green Lake County, Wisconsin’s White River Marsh State Wildlife Area to St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida.

The 1200-mile southward migration began September 28, 2012 and ended 57 days later on November 23rd.


Group One – Ultralight-guided Migration

Crane #4-12

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: April 30, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: red/white/green

Personality and Characteristics: Crane chick #4-12 was the oldest and one of the biggest in the Class of 2012, yet he started out meek and nervous.

During flight school in Wisconsin, he was the most likely chick in the group to wander off, need coaxing out of the pen, or attempt to get over the fence and into the marsh. He often wanted to wander off the runway instead of joining in training. The costumed pilots and ground crew spent extra time with him in hopes he’d become a loyal follower. By July 10 crane #4-12 was running and skipping behind the taxiing ultralight as he began trying to fly. By July 15 he and all the other birds were flapping and chasing behind the ultralight. On July 30, when the weather cooled, #4-12 and the others finally found out what their big wings are for: They lifted off and flew behind the ultralight, down the training strip and back. It was a day to celebrate!

Crane #4-12 was flying well, but one thing worried the team: He breathed through his open mouth, as though tired and panting. No matter how quickly he gets tired, there’s no questioning his loyalty to the trike. Even if he gets tired and lands on the runway, he’ll try to catch the trike as it passes by—even if he usually has no luck doing it. Brooke points out, “The bottom line is he’s really got some serious heart, and in the end that’s what separates the cranes from the herons.”

We’re cheering for you, #4-12!

Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They made it to Stop #2 in Marquette County, WI.

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day! Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Day 9, October 7: Onward to Illinois! Crane #4-12 was late getting out of the gate for the take off, but he flew solo with Richard’s plane from Green County, WI to Winnebago County, Illinois. 

Nice job, Richard and #4-12. Photo: Anne Saeman

Day 15, October 12: All six awesome birds flew the 55 miles to LaSalle County, IL for a total of 175 miles flown so far.

It’s a good thing they had pumpkins and corn for rewards for the next several days while un-flyable weather kept them grounded at this stop.

Day 29, October 26: After 13 days grounded by headwinds or rain, the Class of 2012 got the right weather at last. Tailwinds helped them fly right over Stop #7 and on to Stop #8 in Piatt County Illinois. Today’s 114-mile flight was the longest yet for #4-12. 

Day 35, November 1: Woo-hoo! Crane number #4-12 and three of his four classmates covered 119 miles in almost two hours of flying alongside Richard’s plane. Once above the rougher air near the ground, they climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet and soared right over their planned stop and onward to Wayne County. They’re at the final stopover in the state of Illinois!

This triumph was followed by two days with no flying due to winds or rain.


Day 38, November 4: Crane #4-12 and his flock mates crossed another state border and flew the 45 miles to to Union County, Kentucky in 1 hour 11 minute

Day 40, November 6: Today’s flight to Marshall County, KY put the team just 34.5 air miles short of the migration’s half way point! Crane #4-12 made the 1 hour 52-minute flight just fine!

Day 42, November 8: All five birds launched with pilot Brooke and flew the 53 miles across the state border into Tennessee!

Day 47, November 13: Skipped a stop and crossed the state border into ALABAMA! Today’s flight was 177 miles!!

Day 49, November 15: They flew 58 miles to Chilton County, AL. “The birds enjoyed the flight, switching from wing to wing, flying ahead, dropping below, and dancing the skies with a great sense of jubilation,” wrote pilot Brooke.

Day 50, November 16: Whoopee for a great 46-mile flight to Lowndes County. Today #4-12 and #6-12 struggled at bit at the rear of the line, breathing with their mouths open at times, but they hung in there with Richard’s plane and the other cranes. Just one more stop in Alabama!

Photo: Sarah Jones

Day 53, November 19: The team arrived safely in Pike County, AL this morning, covering 64 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes of flying. Only 187 miles remain in this journey south!

Day 54, November 20: The Fantastic Five skipped over the first Georgia stopover and on to the FINAL Georgia stopover! They’re in Decatur County, GA after flying 116 miles and passing the thousand-mile mark!

Day 55, November 21: FLORIDA! Today’s 43-mile flight brought them to Jefferson County, FL. Just one flight to freedom remains! No flight tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Day 57, November 23: HOME! The journey south ended with today’s 45-minute flight to St Marks NWR. Their ground speed was about 48 miles per hour, with a gentle tailwind push in smooth air. The flight was flawless. Next for the Fabulous Five will be health checks and their new leg bands and band color code. Well done, Operation Migration Team! 

Florida: Dec. 11, 2012: With health checks and banding completed Dec. 7, today the pen gate opened to finally free the young cranes!

Brooke and a team of helpers from St. Marks and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will check on the birds several times a day as they slowly learn to be wild. Each night they will call the birds back into the four acre, open-topped release pen with its 10-foot-tall fences and electric wire. The cranes will roost in one of the enclosed ponds, protected from predators while they sleep. In the mornings they will again venture out into the marsh to learn the ways of the wild. Wearing his costume, Brooke will be there watching. 

Florida: January, 2013: The Class of 2012 spends lovely time foraging in their pond. The crane farthest away, in the back of photo on far right, is a plastic decoy to “model” roosting in the water for safety. The cranes are getting good at hunting and eating blue crabs! 

Florida: January, 2013: The cranes head to the pond to roost as it gets dark. 


Florida: February, 2013: Offering the puppet beak to the cranes allows the handlers to get a good close-up look at each bird to check if all is well.

 

On Feb. 3, crane #6-12 was killed by a bobcat. The other four chicks were spooked for a few days, and Brooke set up live traps to prevent further predation.

March 10: The three were in their St. Marks pond this morning, but the pen was empty by evening, and again the next morning. Migration winds were favorable. Did they go? Stay tuned!

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 10: Cranes #4-12, #5-12 and #7-12 left the pen site at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida. No sightings or reports until…

April 19: Migration Complete! The three arrived in Sauk County, Wisconsin on April 19, the same date as the very first ultralight-led crane kids completed their first solo migration in spring 2012! Cranes #4-12 and #5-12 apparently left that location by April 27th and wandered, but spent a great deal of time at White River Marsh training grounds, where they were in “Flight School” a year ago as chicks themselves. 

Image: Doug Pellerin

Cranes 4-12 and 5-12 look on as the Class of 2013 go through their training session. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2014:  On October 6, pals #4-12 and #5-12 invaded the training strip at White River Marsh and cut the session short for the Class of 2014 in their final week of training before fall migration. 

On October 6, pals #4-12 and #5-12 invaded the training strip at White River Marsh and cut the session short for the Class of 2014 in their final week of training before fall migration. Photo: Colleen Chase

Cranes #4-12 and #5-12 left Wisconsin on or after Oct. 30 and migrated to St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida, arriving on November 30. Once again, #4-12 and pal #5-12 hung out at the St. Marks pen site where the Class of 2014 arrived for their first winter. On Dec. 24, #4-12 chased #5-12 away, which he also did last winter. Will the two get back together again? By mid-January, #4-12 was hanging out with male #4-13, near the pen site.

Photo: Colleen Chase

Operation Migration’s crane handler Colleen took this great photo from December 29 of adult Whooping crane #4-12 chilling on the oyster bar in the release pen with the 2014 chicks.

Photo: Colleen Chase

Crane #4-12 has decided that he must defend ‘his’ crane chicks (the Class of 2014) . He chases away all others, including his former pal #5-12!

Spring 2015: He departed on spring migration on March 11 from St. Marks NWR with pal #4-13 AND young #7-14 from the Class of 2014! The three were tracked and photographed at their first stopover, a cornfield within 20 miles from Operation Migration’s southern migration stopover in Decatur County, Georgia.

Decatur County, GA Photo: Colleen Chase

PTT readings from #7-14 indicated roost locations in Morgan County, Alabama on March 16; Humphreys County, Tennessee, on March 18-20; Henry County, Illinois, on March 22; Whiteside County, Illinois, on March 24; Carroll County, IL on March 25—and #4-12 was still with her. They were back in Marquette County, Wisconsin, by roost on March 28th.

Crane #4-12 was hanging out with #5-12 and #9-13 near White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County on April 21st. He showed up with #5-12 to supervise when young #8-14, #9-14 and #10-14 were released on White River Marsh after being captured and relocated when they failed to find their way home on spring migration. He hung out with young #3-14 the rest of the summer, and their group also included #5-12 and #4-14 and three females #9-14 and #10-14. They often visited the Class of 2015 at the training site at White River Marsh. 

#4-12, age 3, June 2015 Photo: Colleen Chase

Fall 2015: Crane #4-12 was still with the group of six from summer; they were on the move as of November: On Dec. 8, #4-12 arrived at St. Marks NWR in Florida, together with the youngsters #3-14, #4-14 and #10-14. Click on the map to see their migration path, and where they were blown too far east in mid November:

Leader #4-12 did a great job of getting the 2014 youngsters to their winter home on their first solo journey south.

Cranes #4-12 and younger #3-14 have continued their close relationship since arriving at St. Marks. In the last days of January, they moved about 80 miles north. (They may have witnessed the predation of #9-14 and decided it was time to leave the area.)

Spring 2016: Male #4-12 and female #3-14 stayed together through the winter. The two were at St. Marks NWR for a short time before moving north to Miller County, Georgia in late January. A PTT hit showed #3-14 migrating north (perhaps still with #4-12, who does not have a transmitter), reaching northwest Kentucky by March 8 after traveling 250 miles the first day and 180 miles the next. On March 16, a PTT hit indicated female Whooping crane #3-14 roosted just off the north end of the White River Marsh training site in Wisconsin!

Male #4-12 was later confirmed with #3-14 and the pair stayed in the area with several other Whooping cranes. In September, two of the 2016 Parent Reared crane colts were released near this pair in hopes one or both might be adopted by the adult pair before migration.

Fall 2016: On October 7, it finally appeared that a new family was formed when #4-12 and mate #3-14 flew off to their roost location for the night with PR colt #30-16! Time passed and the new family was still together, and seemed to be the only “adoption” working as it was hoped to. The little family group is possibly together with male #4-13, who always showed a lot of interest in the young PR crane, and his new mate #8-14.

Alloparents #4-12 and #3-14, with young PR #30-16, were considered a firm adoption and still together Dec. 4 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin. The family began migration on December 7 and reached Floyd Co, GA.

Spring 2017: Male #4-12 and his mate #3-14 completed migration back to White River Marsh in Wisconsin on the evening of March 21. The chick they adopted, Parent Reared #30-16, was in the marsh, too, but about 300 yards from the adults. “They likely chased him away now that they are back home,” noted Operation Migration’s Joe Duff. “That’s a good sign that they may breed this year and produce their own offspring. They taught PR #30-16 how to migrate and to be wild, and maybe he taught them how to be good parents.”

The Royal Couple (female #3-14 and male #4-12) made BIG excitement when their new nest was discovered in mid April on White River Marsh! It’s the first nest at the marsh since the aircraft-led chick training was moved here in 2011.

The pair, both hatched in incubators, also had the good instincts to build an incredible, symmetrical and tall nest platform in an ideal location surrounded by water, deep in the marsh. When heavy rains in late April made the water rise, the pair pulled additional cattails and vegetation onto the platform. Operation Migration’s Heather Ray said on April 27, “We’re hopeful their instincts will continue to guide this pair for another 10-12 days, which is when we anticipate a hatch (or two).” 

A sad outcome was in store as video feed revealed the nest was predated May 8th at 7:20 pm by a hungry coyote. The two eggs both were viable. Egg fragments were collected. The nest is surrounded by water.

The video feed showed the nesting adults doing everything they could to chase away another crane that intruded into their nesting territory. As the pair was distracted in those efforts, a determined coyote lurking nearby was able to get to their nest and eat the eggs. The eggs were due to hatch within a day or two at the most. We were reminded again that nature can be cruel.

The pair returned to the site of the empty nest the next day but they did not re-nest. If the nest had been predated upon earlier in its development there would have been a greater chance of a re-nest by this pair.

By the end of May the pair moved about a mile away but were still located on White River Marsh.

Fall 2017: At the end of November, this pair was spotted in Jasper County, Indiana. They were on their way south to their winter location. In mid-January, Brooke Pennypacker confirmed they were back on their winter home in Seminold County, Georgia – the same location they have used since 2016.

Spring 2018:  On April 2nd, Doug Pellerin spotted the pair already back at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, WI. By the beginning of May, it seems this pair was nesting again! Heather noted the last time the two were spotted on the CraneCam was on May 2nd. For a few weeks after, all we were able to see was a single bird foraging. We were able to confirm which bird using legbands and it seems both were taking incubation duties. 

We suspect the nest has hatched as the last time we observed a single crane foraging was on May 30. It’s very possible both adults are in the marsh – busy provisioning for a newly hatched chick(s).

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #5-12

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: April 30, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: white/red/green

Personality and Characteristics: In the hours after he hatched, chick #5-12 impressed many as a goofy little guy barely able to walk or focus long enough to eat. As he grew, he would rather stay close to the costumed human “parent” than going out to forage by himself. He often pecked at the sleeve of the costume to be “connected.” Soon, LOTS of treats helped him see the reward in joining the other chicks following behind the ultralight plane as it rolled along the ground. Chick #5-12 became the most likely bird to remind all the others that he was boss. On July 12 he struggled more than the other birds when captured and held to get a vaccination and his metal USFWS leg band. The team gave him extra attention and he soon forgot about it. By July 15 all the birds were flapping and chasing. On July 30, when the weather cooled, they all lifted off and flew behind the ultralight—down the training strip and back. It was a thrilling day when they were airborne together and following the trike.

5-12 checks out his temporary transmitter.

Crane #5-12 is big and dominant. By early September, pilot Brooke noted that #5-12 was “just the kind of player we need up front to anchor our line.” The team is less pleased about his habit of dropping down below the trike part way through the flight, tiring himself out by losing the benefit of the wing currents. He gets so tired that he needs to fly back to the bench for a breather. “But once he shakes that dumb habit, he’ll be fine,” predicts Brooke.

Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! Crane #5-12 was the only one who changed the plan by turning back. No worries: Brooke and his ultralight got #5-12 to fly the distance, and they landed shortly after the other five birds. They all passed over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI) for a gain of 19 miles with 100 percent participation!

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. But as Brooke descended to land, Crane #5-12 (always the rebel) left Brooke and climbed above him. He took his own sweet time coming down. It seemed he wasn’t ready to quit flying and wanted to check out the new neighborhood before accepting the new stopover site.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day! Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Day 15, October 12: All six awesome birds flew the 55 miles to LaSalle County, IL. for a total of 175 miles flown so far.

It’s a good thing they had pumpkins and corn for rewards for the next several days while un-flyable weather kept them grounded at this stop.

Day 29, October 26: After 13 days grounded by headwinds or rain, the Class of 2012 got the right weather at last. Tailwinds helped them fly right over Stop #7 and on to Stop #8 in Piatt County Illinois. Today’s 114-mile flight was the longest yet for #5-12. Way to go!

Day 35, November 1: Woohoo! Crane #5-12 and three of his four classmates covered 119 miles in almost two hours of flying alongside Richard’s plane. Once above the rougher air near the ground, they climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet and soared right over their planned stop and onward to Wayne County. They’re at the final stopover in the state of Illinois!

Day 38, November 4: Crane #5-12 and his flock mates crossed another state border and flew the 45 miles to to Union County, Kentucky in 1 hour 11 minutes.

Day 40, November 6: Today’s flight to Marshall County, KY put the team just 34.5 air miles short of the migration’s half way point! Crane #5-12 made the 1 hour 52-minute flight just fine!

Crane #5-12’s eyes will change to the adult eye color of yellow over the winter.

Day 42, November 8: All five birds launched with pilot Brooke and flew the 53 miles across the state border into Tennessee!

Day 47, November 13: Skipped a stop and crossed the state border into ALABAMA! Today’s flight was 177 miles!!

Day 49, November 15: They flew 58 miles to Chilton County, AL. “The birds enjoyed the flight, switching from wing to wing, flying ahead, dropping below, and dancing the skies with a great sense of jubilation,” wrote pilot Brooke.

Day 50, November 16: Whoopee! A great 46-mile flight to Lowndes County leaves one more stop in Alabama! Crane #5-12 flew third in the line today, at 2,200 feet altitude. Good job!

Day 53, November 19: The team arrived safely in Pike County, AL this morning, covering 64 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes of flying. Only 187 miles remain in this journey south!

Day 54, November 20: The Fantastic Five skipped over the first Georgia stopover and on to the FINAL Georgia stopover! They’re in Decatur County, GA after flying 116 miles and passing the thousand-mile mark!

Day 55, November 21: FLORIDA! Today’s 43-mile flight brought them to Jefferson County, FL. Just one flight to freedom remains! No flight tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Day 57, November 23: HOME! The journey south ended with today’s 45-minute flight to St Marks NWR. Their ground speed was about 48 miles per hour, with a gentle tailwind push in smooth air. The flight was flawless. Next for the Fabulous Five will be health checks and their new legbands and band color code. Well done, Operation Migration Team!

Florida: Dec. 11, 2012: With health checks and banding completed Dec. 7, today the pen gate opened to finally free the young cranes!

Brooke and a team of helpers from St Marks and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will check on the birds several times a day as they slowly learn to be wild. Each night they will call the birds back into the four acre, open-topped release pen with its 10-foot-tall fences and electric wire. The cranes will roost in one of the enclosed ponds, protected from predators while they sleep. In the mornings they will again venture out into the marsh to learn the ways of the wild. Wearing his costume, Brooke will be there watching.

Florida: January, 2013: Crane #5-12 was the first of the group to get his adult voice, and has been practicing calls for several weeks. 

Whooping crane 5-12 found a blue crab to eat!

Foraging for natural marsh food items.

Crane #5-12 and buddy #6-12 return to the enclosure after a day of flying around and exploring. 

Feb. 3: A bobcat lurked and killed crane #6-12. Crane #5-12 and the others are spooked but safe. Live traps have been set up in the area to capture any bobcat that might come back.

Feb. 8-13: The four cranes dawdled a long time before finally going back in their pen for night roosting. With the recent bobcat scare, this worried Brooke! On Feb. 9 all four birds were gone when Brooke came in the morning. He searched, but found no sign of them until Feb. 10, when two (#5-12 and #7-12) had returned at sunrise. Crane #4-12 was back on Feb. 13, but without #11-12, who had still not shown up by Feb.28. Winds have been right for migration, and many sandhill cranes in the area have already headed north. The three youngsters spend most of their time foraging and preening, keeping their feathers in top condition for flight.

Crane #5-12 stretches his wings

March 10: The three were in their St. Marks pond this morning, but the pen was empty by evening. Migration winds were favorable. On March 11 their pen was empty!

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North 

March 10: Cranes #4-12, #5-12 and #7-12 left the pen site at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida. No sightings or reports until…

April 19: Migration Complete! The three arrived in Sauk County, Wisconsin on April 19, the same date as the very first ultralight-led crane kids completed their first solo migration in spring 2012!  As spring turned to summer, the two were often seen hanging out very near their former training grounds at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. Then they began showing up at training time.

Cranes 4-12 and 5-12 look on as the Class of 2013 go through their training session. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Image: Doug Pellerin

Image: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2013: Cranes #4-12 and #5-12 remained in Green Lake County, Wisconsin through at least October 2. They were not found during an aerial tracking flight on November 8 and were next reported in Pulaski Co, Illinois, on November 15. On December 7 the two pals turned up at their former winter home, right inside the pen awaiting the Class of 2013. On January 5, when the youngest cranes finally completed their migration to Florida, the two older cranes were standing guard outside the pen! Well done, boys! The two remained on St. Marks NWR at least through March 3.

Spring 2014: Male #5-12 left the pensite at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida on February 5. He was next reported in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, on April 2, migration complete! It was a surprise when #4-12 chased his best buddy #5-12 off and migrated back to Wisconsin solo. Since then both have been spending time separately in the area surrounding White River Marsh but they were photographed together again in May. They hung out together throughout the summer.

Fall 2014: Cranes #4-12 and #5-12 left Wisconsin on or shortly after Oct. 30 and migrated to St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida, arriving on November 30.

Once again, #5-12 and pal #4-12 hung out at the St. Marks pen site where the Class of 2014 resides during their first winter. On Dec. 24, #5-12 was chased away by#4-12. This kept up, so he stayed on a nearby ranch with the cows.

Number #5-12 often returned to the St. Marks pen to dart in from his hiding spot to madly gulp down as much food as possible before #4-12 came back to kick him out!  

On March 23, Brooke was sure #5-12 was lonely; the crane left the feeders to come stand by costumed Brooke as the remaining five youngsters returned from a day of foraging elsewhere. Brooke also joked that, with all his food gobbling, #5-12 may be to heavy to take off and migrate! 

Spring 2015: He started hanging out at the Florida release pen after males #4-12 and #4-13 began migration. Then, as everyone hoped would happen, he departed St. Marks with the five remaining juveniles in the Class of 2014 on April 3! Everyone hopes this two-year-old will lead the way for these crane-kids, who have a gap in their knowledge of the migration route between Tennessee and Wisconsin due to being trucked most of the way. He led the juveniles north but left them on day 7 when they were at their stopover in Saline County, Illinois.

Details of their trip below:

Details of migration days 1-7: They flew nearly 200 miles on their northward departure day, reaching Elmore County, Alabama. In the next three days the group passed through Tennessee and Kentucky, entering territory unfamiliar to them, but #5-12 knew the way. On April 6 they stayed in Calloway County, KY. On April 7 they gained 80 miles to Saline County, Illinois before being stopped by a storm. The weather remained windy and stormy, but on April 8 and despite unsettled weather, it appeared that #5-12 left the group and flew onward by himself. No further signals were received from his radio transmitter. The five young cranes remained at least through April 9 as stormy weather continued in northern Illinois.

Wisconsin DNR pilot Bev Paulan heard #5-12’s radio signal in Adams County, Wisconsin on April 14. He was hanging out with #4-12 and #9-13 near White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County on April 21st. He showed up May 4 to welcome young #8-14, #9-14 and #10-14 when they were released. (These youngsters failed to find their way home after he left them on their first northward migration.)

Fall 2015: It seems male #5-12 was holding out, hoping and waiting for some female company and his patience finally paid off! He was seen Sep. 17 and 18 in the field adjacent to Operation Migration’s training camp with TWO gal pals: sub-adults #9-14 and #10-14. He was spotted November 17 at Florida’s St. Marks NWR—his winter home—where he was happily foraging a short distance from the winter release pen with young female #9-14. Migration complete! Most of the winter, cranes #5-12, #4-13 and #7-14 stand watch and guard. They seem to think the pen for the youngsters belongs to them. They stay in the pen most, if not all of the day, loving the unlimited food, fresh water and hot-wired fenced security. They pretty much rule the roost. They chase the chicks at will and refuse any olive branches the chicks might offer. So, the chicks have learned to stay away from them, except on very occasional forays into the marsh and on the oyster bar at night.

Spring/Summer 2016: Crane #5-12 left on migration with #4-13 and #7-14 and juvenile #2-15 on March 22. The group separated within a few days and all but juvenile #2-15 were back at Necedah by March 30. Male #5-12 hung out in his former training area, White River Marsh, with several other cranes during the summer. Finally, on July 4, he was observed with female #8-14. As noted on the website of Operation Migration, “This is exciting news as we’ve all been hoping this male and female would find each other!” Since #5-12 has not had the best of luck with female cranes, the team was hopeful when he was photographed in August with female #8-14. Everyone hopes they become a bonded pair.

#5-12 and girlfriend #8-14. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2016: Male #5-12 and new girlfriend #8-14 were often seen in the White River Marsh area where two other adults were bonding with one of the 2016 PR colts. On September 30, male number #4-13 drove off #5-12 and stole away female #8-14. Crane #5-12 seems unwilling to fight for romance and instead flies off to safety. By October 11, the new pair was still together and #5-12 was nowhere to be found. Joe Duff wrote on October 21: “After being dumped twice, #5-12 likely decided it was time to migrate or at least get a head start. He was located in Columbia County, WI. until Dec. 4, but just a week later was seen with three other adult whoopers spending time in and around the winter release pen located on St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, FL. 

Poor #5-12 really needed a friend, and he got one on the wintering grounds when #4-14 (aka Peanut) hung out with him. Peanut stuck with his buddy #5-12 even after the other adult pair left on the spring journey north. Will the two buddies migrate together? (Seems they did as both turned up in the White River Marsh area). 

#5-12 and #4-14. Photo: Brooke Pennypacker

Spring/Summer 2017: Crane #5-12 left March 24th on migration with #4-14 (aka Peanut). He was back at Wisconsin’s White River Marsh on March 31st! The mystery is: Where is his good buddy, #4-14? A week after #5-12’s return, there was still no sign of Peanut. Peanut eventually turned up on May 8th at White River Marsh when he landed near the first time nest of pair 3-14/4-12. Unfortunately this resulted in the predation of the two eggs the pair had been incubating. When number #4-14 landed nearby both adults went to chase him off, leaving the nest exposed. The hungry coyote moved in…

Tom Schultz found and photographed #5-12 on Friday evening, March 31st at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, WI. In April #5-12 was seen a lot with yearling male #30-16. We hope they’ll be good buddies, as it seems #5-12 could sure use a friend after being twice dumped by girlfriends and now Peanut left him too. 

OM Volunteer Tom Schultz located #5-12 and sent along this photo.

By August #30-16 is still with number #5-12 who has earned the nickname “Uncle Henry.” 

EXCITING NEWS: Whooping cranes 5-12 & 30-16 have found the group of seven Costume-reared Whooping cranes and are now roosting with them each night at a pond about a half-mile from the White River Marsh pen area. The young crane chicks began roosting with these two male whooping cranes at the end of September and also spend time during the day foraging with them in nearby fields.

The 2017 Costumed-Reared cohort foraging with 5-12 & 30-16. Photo: Doug Pellerin

Will “Uncle Henry” and his buddy #30-16 lead this group of seven to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to spend the winter? Stay tuned!

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #6-12

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 3, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: green/red/green

Personality and Characteristics: This free-spirited female #6-12 was at first “a silly little bird who could barely stay awake long enough to take a drink.” Proving how fast baby cranes change and develop, she soon was drinking off that water jug like there was a prize in it. The costumed caretakers noticed she had a few bad habits. Attacking the crane puppet was one. Refusing to follow the trainer was another. Sometimes she was mean and refused to socialize with the other birds. She wasn’t interested in the costumed “parent,” and her attention span was short.

Luckily, she started having more good days than bad ones and arrived in Wisconsin for flight school ready to learn. In fact, pilot Brooke calls her this season’s turnaround player! At first she often lagged behind or followed last, but at least she followed. She just would rather do “her own thing.” By July 15 all the birds were flapping and chasing behind the ultralight. On July 30, when the weather cooled, #6-12 and the others finally found out what their big wings are for: They lifted off and flew behind the ultralight, down the training strip and back. Hooray — airborne! After that she got better every day. One morning in early September, Brooke had this to say:” This morning she blew right past the rest of the players off the right wing to take the lead, then looked over at me in the pilot’s seat as if you say, ‘Gimme what ya got!’ That’s the kind of character and grit the team is looking for as migration time gets closer. Way to go, #6!


Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They passed right over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI). Well done!

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day! Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Day 29, October 26: After 13 days stuck on the ground at Stopover #6 in LaSalle County, Illinois, the migration took off again today. Good tailwinds helped, but crane #6-12 dropped out. Trackers located her and put her in a crate to finish the trip in a van while the other birds finished on their own wing power, covering not one but TWO stops today!

Day 35, November 1: While her classmates covered 119 miles in almost two hours of flying alongside Richard’s plane, young #6-12 didn’t want to stay airborne and join them. Brooke tried and tried to get her to follow, but the air lower down was a bit turbulent and she headed for the ground and stayed there. She played with ice that formed in the water pans in the pen until she was crated and driven by road to join the other four birds. She rode 140 miles to Wayne County, the final stopover in the state of Illinois.

Day 38, November 4: She’s back! Crane #6-12 flew the distance today, much to the relief of the team. Flight time for the 45 miles to to Union County, Kentucky was 1 hour 11 minutes. Well done, #6-12!

Day 40, November 6: Today’s flight to Marshall County, KY put the team just 34.5 air miles short of the migration’s half way point! Again today, crane #6-12 made the 1 hour 52-minute flight just fine!

Day 41, November 7: With rain moving in, there’s no flight today. 

This photo shows #6-12 taking a drink of water in the travel pen.

Day 42, November 8: All five birds launched with pilot Brooke and flew the 53 miles across the state border into Tennessee!

Day 47, November 13: Skipped a stop and crossed the state border into ALABAMA! Today’s flight was 177 miles!!

Day 49, November 15: They flew 58 miles to Chilton County, AL. “The birds enjoyed the flight, switching from wing to wing, flying ahead, dropping below, and dancing the skies with a great sense of jubilation,” wrote pilot Brooke.

Day 50, November 16: Whoopee! A great 46-mile flight to Lowndes County. Today #4-12 and #6-12 struggled at bit at the rear of the line, breathing with their mouths open at times, but they hung in there with Richard’s plane and the other cranes. Just one more stop in Alabama!

Day 53, November 19: The team arrived safely in Pike County, AL this morning, covering 64 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes of flying. Only 187 miles remain in this journey south!

Day 54, November 20: The Fantastic Five skipped over the first Georgia stopover and on to the FINAL Georgia stopover! They’re in Decatur County, GA after flying 116 miles and passing the thousand-mile mark!

Day 55, November 21: FLORIDA! Today’s 43-mile flight brought them to Jefferson County, FL. Just one flight to freedom remains! No flight tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Day 57, November 23: HOME! The journey south ended with today’s 45-minute flight to St. Marks NWR. Their ground speed was about 48 miles per hour, with a gentle tailwind push in smooth air. The flight was flawless. Next for the Fabulous Five will be health checks and their new leg bands and band color codes. Well done, Operation Migration Team!

Florida: Dec. 11, 2012: With health checks and banding completed Dec, 7, today the pen gate opened to finally free the young cranes!

Brooke and a team of helpers from St. Marks and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will check on the birds several times a day as they slowly learn to be wild. Each night they will call the birds back into the four acre, open-topped release pen with its 10-foot-tall fences and electric wire. The cranes will roost in one of the enclosed ponds, protected from predators while they sleep. In the mornings they will again venture out into the marsh to learn the ways of the wild. Wearing his costume, Brooke will be there watching. 

February 3, 2013: A Bobcat killed Crane #6-12 in the early morning while she was foraging outside the safety of the crane enclosure. Brooke arrived for the early pen check and likely scared off the bobcat right after the kill. The other four birds had flown off but their calls and vocalizations made it clear that something was wrong. Live traps were placed around the area to catch and relocate the bobcat if it returns.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #7-12

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 4, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: green/white/red

Personality and Characteristics: After she hatched, this little female’s toes needed to be taped so they would grow straight (see photo). When crane #7-12 was moved into a new pen at a few days of age, she was scared by her own reflection in the Plexiglas. The costumed humans solved it by taping a piece of carpet to the window to mask the reflection; then she calmed down. She really liked sticking close to the costumed “parent,” but she is curious too. At first she was at the bottom of the pecking order.

At flight school in Wisconsin, she became a good follower. Sometimes she wandered over to the fence, but always came back to follow when the trike taxied off for another chase down the training strip. By July 15 all the birds could flap and run behind the ultralight. On July 30, when the hot weather cooled, #7-12 and the others finally found out what their big wings are for: They lifted off and flew behind the ultralight, down the training strip and back. Airborne!!

Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They passed right over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI). Well done!

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day! Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Day 9, October 7: Onward to Illinois!

Day 15, October 12: All six awesome birds flew the 55 miles to LaSalle County, IL. for a total of 175 miles flown so far. It’s a good thing they had pumpkins and corn for rewards for the next several days while unflyable weather kept them grounded at this stop.

Day 29, October 26: After 13 days grounded by headwinds or rain, the Class of 2012 got the right weather at last. Tailwinds helped them fly right over Stop #7 and on to Stop #8 in Piatt County Illinois. Today’s 114-mile flight was the longest yet for #7-12. Whoopee!

Number 7-12 in the foreground.

Day 35, November 1: She and all her classmates except #6-12 covered 119 miles in almost two hours of flying. Once above the rougher air near the ground, they climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet and soared right over their planned stop and onward to Wayne County. They’re at the final stopover in the state of Illinois!

Day 38, November 4: See Crane #7-12 in flight! She and all her flock mates flew the 45 miles to to Union County, Kentucky in 1 hour 11 minutes today. They’ve completed 453 miles of the 1101-mile journey south.

Whooping crane #7-12 in flight alongside the ultralight aircraft. Photo: Operation Migration

Day 40, November 6: Today’s flight to Marshall County, KY put the team just 34.5 air miles short of the migration’s half way point! Crane #7-12 made the 1 hour 52-minute flight just fine! Even though she’s not the youngest crane in this group, she has more rusty brown feathers from her “chickhood” than the others in the Class of 2012.

Day 42, November 8: All five birds launched with pilot Brooke and flew the 53 miles across the state border into Tennessee!

Day 47, November 13: Skipped a stop and crossed the state border into ALABAMA! Today’s flight was 177 miles!!

Day 49, November 15: They flew 58 miles to Chilton County, AL. “The birds enjoyed the flight, switching from wing to wing, flying ahead, dropping below, and dancing the skies with a great sense of jubilation,” wrote pilot Brooke.

Day 50, November 16: Whoopee! A great 46-mile flight to Lowndes County leaves one more stop in Alabama! Cranes #7-12 and #11-12 battled back and forth for lead position, even cruising ahead for most of the flight. This made it harder for the last cranes (#4-12 and #6-12) to keep up. The humid air and the temperature of ~12 degrees Celsius also made it more difficult for the birds at the rear of the line, but they all made it and landed together with pilot Richard.

Day 53, November 19: The team arrived safely in Pike County, AL this morning, covering 64 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes of flying. Only 187 miles remain in this journey south! 

Day 54, November 20: The Fantastic Five skipped over the first Georgia stopover and on to the FINAL Georgia stopover! They’re in Decatur County, GA after flying 116 miles and passing the thousand-mile mark!

Day 55, November 21: FLORIDA! Today’s 43-mile flight brought them to Jefferson County, FL. Just one flight to freedom remains! No flight tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Day 57, November 23: HOME! The journey south ended with today’s 45-minute flight to St. Marks NWR. Their ground speed was about 48 miles per hour, with a gentle tailwind push in smooth air. The flight was flawless. Next for the Fabulous Five will be health checks and their new leg bands and band color code. Well done, Operation Migration Team!

Florida: Dec. 11, 2012: With health checks and banding completed Dec. 7, today the pen gate opened to finally free the young cranes!

Brooke and a team of helpers from St. Marks and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will check on the birds several times a day as they slowly learn to be wild. Each night they will call the birds back into the four acre, open-topped release pen with its 10-foot-tall fences and electric wire. The cranes will roost in one of the enclosed ponds, protected from predators while they sleep. In the mornings they will again venture out into the marsh to learn the ways of the wild. Wearing his costume, Brooke will be there watching.

Florida: January, 2013: The young cranes are hunting and eating blue crabs in the salty marshes.  

Florida: January, 2013: The young cranes all head to the pond to roost as darkness falls. Crane #7-12 leads the way. 

Florida: February, 2013: Offering the puppet beak to the cranes allows the handlers to get a good close-up look at each bird to check if all is well.The five birds spend a lot of time together.

On Feb. 3, a bobcat killed Crane #6-12, and the other four acted spooked for a few days. Then…

Feb. 8-13: The four cranes dawdled a long time before finally going back in their pen for night roosting. With the recent bobcat scare, this worried Brooke! On Feb. 9 all four birds were gone when Brooke came in the morning. He searched, but found no sign of them until Feb. 10, when two (#5-12 and #7-12) had returned at sunrise. They are still there, under Brooke’s watchful eyes. Crane #4-12 was back by Feb. 13. Has #11-12 begun spring migration? Winds have been right for migration, and many sandhill cranes have already headed north.

Feb. 27: The “Treasured Trio” —now cranes #4-12, #5-12, and #7-12—spends most of their time foraging and preening, keeping their feathers in top condition for flight.

Crane #7-12 (back) shares the crane chow feeder with crane #5-12 (front) in their Florida enclosure in March. Cranes #4-12, #7-12 and #5-12 have changed a lot over the winter!

March 10: The three were in their St. Marks pond this morning, but the pen was empty by evening, and again the next morning. Migration winds were favorable. Did they go? Stay tuned!

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North 

March 10: Cranes #4-12, #5-12 and #7-12 left the pen site at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, Florida on March 10. No sightings or reports until…

April 19: Migration Complete! The three arrived in Sauk County, Wisconsin on the same date as the very first ultralight-led crane kids completed their first solo migration in spring 2002!

Female #7-12 unfortunately has a leg or foot injury. She has been observed by both tracker Eva and pilot Brooke as she foraged and roosted with the other two cranes from her cohort. They monitored her more closely, but planned no intervention unless the condition worsened.

Whooping crane 7-12 with a swollen left foot.

Eva Szyszkoski and Brooke frequently checked on her. On May 9 they reported her foot still swollen (photo above), but she was getting around better and using the foot occasionally.

By April 27 her two flockmates moved to nearby Dane County. Thankfully, watching and waiting paid off! ICF’s Hillary Thompson checked on #7-12 on May 17 and reported no limp. Crane #7-12 now appeared to be doing just fine. #7-12 was reported in Marquette County on June 12, and in Waushara County, Wisconsin, by August 16 and remained in the county through at least September 19.

Fall 2013: On the Nov. 8 tracking flight, Crane #7-12 was seen in Winnebago County, where she had relocated in early October. She completed migration to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama on December 4 or sooner.

Spring 2014: Female #7-12 departed Wheeler NWR in Alabama on March 5 with #6-11, #15-11 DAR, #17-07 and the young DAR #59-13 (Latke). They made it to Hardin/Chester Counties in Tennessee that night. They continued north to Jasper County, IL on March 11, Tazewell County, IL on March 15 and Woodford County, IL on March 17 and Dane County, WI on March 18. Crane #7-12 apparently followed pair #6-11 and #15-11 DAR to Wood County, Wisconsin, on March 21. She later moved to Adams County, WI, where she began associating with male #3-11. They were still there together in early October.

Photo: Eva Szyszkoski, International Crane Foundation

Fall 2014: Crane #7-12 departed Oct. 31 from Adams County, Wisconsin to migrate south with with #3-11, #24-13 and #38-09 DAR (remained with them in Knox County, Indiana, except for a brief trip north into Greene County around 23-25 November). Pair #29-08 and #W3-10 joined this group by 18 November and #18-09 joined them by 23 November. By early January, up to 11 Whooping Cranes were associating in this area.

Spring 2015: Female #7-12 remained in Greene County, Indiana, through at least March 25th when she was observed with wild-hatched female #W3-14, whose dad had departed on spring migration. Neither she nor #W3-14 were detected at this location during a check on March 29th, but she made it back to her territory for the nesting season.

Sad news came when her death was discovered and her remains were recovered on June 10, 2015. Unfortunately, cause of death could not be determined due to postmortem scavenging. Her mate’s (number #6-09) remains were found on territory on June 30, cause of death unknown but he was molting at the time and unable to fly.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #10-12

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 7, 2012
Legbands: None

Personality and Training: She is our youngest bird, but only nine days behind the oldest. She is not the smallest of her flock mates, nor is she the least aggressive. At first the team worried that #10-12 had an eye problem, or that she was a slacker. When she was still in the ICU, she ignored the puppet, or else tapped it enough to make it go away. Left alone, she didn’t eat or drink much without being encouraged. Her lazy ways changed only a little after she arrived in Wisconsin for flight school. Scared of the gate, she stayed by the “costume” and was late getting out of the pen to chase after the ultralight trike. Sometimes she wouldn’t come out of the pen for training at all unless the costume bribed her with treats and coaxed her out. On her good days, she ran to catch up and follow, so that gave the team hope.

By July 15 all the birds could flap and run behind the ultralight. By end of of July they could get airborne, and—suddenly—#10-12 began charging out of the gate with zeal. She’s on her way!

Aug. 6: Crane #10-12 is proving to be a champion! Today she out-flew her other five classmates and thrilled pilot Richard with her eagerness to keep flying. She stayed airborne even after the cohort’s third good fight of the morning and kept trying to follow Richard, who wanted to land his plane and call it a GREAT day.

Two weeks later, best flier #10-12 surprised the team today when she suddenly and unexpectedly dropped out of the formation and landed in the marsh while the others followed happily and landed unfazed on the runway after a 40 minute flight. The trike tried to pick her up again, but she was too tired to stay airborne. Trackers rescued her in the van, and she was fine after a rest back in the pen.

September 10: All six flew strongly in a 40-minute flight with the ultralight! Pilot Brooke says “she surfs the wing like it was her own personal surf board.”

Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They passed right over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI). Hooray!

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day, and #10-12 performed superbly, as usual. Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Crane #10-12 flying in lead position. Photo: Operation Migration

Day 29, October 26: This was the day the birds and pilots had been awaiting for 13 days stuck on the ground at Stopover #6 in LaSalle County, Illinois. Finally they had the right weather and the bonus of tailwinds that enabled them to skip a stop. All six birds took off but the long flight had a sad ending for #10-12, who broke her leg upon landing.

She was rushed to The University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic and Veterinary School for surgery. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she died on the operating table. The team was heartbroken. 

Pilot Joe Duff said the break was consistent with a hard landing, so maybe that’s what happened. Migration ground crew member Julia Anthony, who has known #10-12 since the chick’s early days at Maryland’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, wrote:

“When I was first introduced to the chicks, #10-12 kept to herself in the wet pen. One of our tasks is to visually inspect each chick every time we enter the pen. I had to make an effort to seek out her in the wet pen to check on her. Usually she would shy away from the costumes, and I remember being so excited when she finally took a grape from me. Later #10-12 developed into the best flyer of the group… When the chicks did their first air pick up (meaning that the trike did not land and then take off again with the chicks, but instead just flew by picking up the birds on the run) it was #10-12 that lead the charge out of the pen, and who fearlessly took off after the trike. One misstep ends one bird’s life and the Eastern flock gets one less crane. One less potential mate and parent crane now exists. We now have five chicks in the Class of 2012. We also have thousands of broken hearts; mine being one of them. Rest in peace, brave #10-12.”

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #11-12

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 9, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: red/white/red

Personality and Characteristics: In her first days of life, #11-12 was good at trying to escape, but being only four inches tall she was easy to catch. As the “littlest sister,” she really loved being close to the costumed handler.

Pilot Brooke called her “an undersized little runt” when she arrived for flight school in Wisconsin. She liked getting treats for hanging around the ultralight parked on the grass outside the pen. Later, this youngest female came out of the pen and readily followed after the trike as it taxied down the grass training strip. Crane #11-12 became one of the most reliable for coming out of the pen without coaxing, and for following the trike without turning back. Brooke said, it looked like we might not hear much about this good little girl who always cooperated. But by late July, all she could do was frantically run after the trike as she watched her older pen-mates soar effortlessly and gracefully after the plane. Then, suddenly #11-12 replaced #10-12 as the “problem bird” that wouldn’t come out of the pen. But wait. On July 31 she astonished the team by FLYING. She had so little loyalty to the trike that she took off into the marsh THREE times in a row. “I’ve never seen a bird with a rebellious streak like that,” said team member Geoff. She does things HER way, but at last the team now knows she can fly!

By early September, Brooke described her this way: “It’s like she got bit by a hummingbird then injected with a lawn dart! She bobs and weaves all over the sky and now has the size to make her presence felt. You want to talk about attitude? She’s got it in spades!” Everyone is glad she got over whatever was bothering her before. GO #11-12!

Richard van Heuvelen on a training flight with the 2012 cohort over White River Marsh. Photo: Masako Pellerin

Fall 2012: Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They passed right over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI). Whoopee!

Day 4, October 1: Onward to Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke’s wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day! Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Day 29, October 26: After 13 days grounded by headwinds or rain, the Class of 2012 got the right weather at last. Tailwinds helped them fly right over Stop #7 and on to Stop #8 in Piatt County Illinois. Today’s 114-mile flight was the longest yet for #11-12. Well done!

Day 35, November 1: Whoopee! Crane #11-12 and three of her four classmates covered 119 miles in almost two hours of flying alongside Richard’s plane. Once above the rougher air near the ground, they climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet and soared right over their planned stop and onward to Wayne County. They’re at the final stopover in the state of Illinois!

Day 38, November 4: Crane #11-12 and her flock mates crossed another state border and flew the 45 miles to Union County, Kentucky in 1 hour 11 minutes. They’ve completed 453 miles of their first 1101-mile journey south!

Day 40, November 6: Today’s flight to Marshall County, KY put the team just 34.5 air miles short of the migration’s half way point! Crane #11-12 made the 1 hour 52-minute flight just fine!

Photo shows #11-12 in the travel pen with Geoff on Nov. 7.

Day 42, November 8: All five birds launched with pilot Brooke and flew the 53 miles across the state border into Tennessee!

Julie wrote: Before today’s flight, #11-12 steps up to the pen wall (which is made of a wire mesh on a frame) and paces along the side where I stand and where the birds will be released. She is now impatient with being a prisoner and she shows it by striding along the pen wall and rubbing her beak across the wire mesh. Much like a prisoner in an old movie clanks his tin cup across the bars of his cell to show his discontent, the birds do the same with their beaks.

It usually starts with #11-12. She has taken over the mantle of “most eager to fly” since her classmate #10-12 died. This morning she got two of the other birds to join her. #4-12 and #7-12 added their clicks to hers and I soon had a small rhythm section going. Back and forth they pace only pausing to move out of #4-12’s way (he is still bigger than #11-12 and #7-12 so they move around him). In the background #5-12 was doing a short run, jump, flap to which #6-12 responded in kind.

Day 47, November 13: Skipped a stop and crossed the state border into ALABAMA! Today’s flight was 177 miles!!

Day 49, November 15: They flew 58 miles to Chilton County, AL. “The birds enjoyed the flight, switching from wing to wing, flying ahead, dropping below, and dancing the skies with a great sense of jubilation,” wrote pilot Brooke.

Day 50, November 16: Whoopee! A great 46-mile flight to Lowndes County, which leaves one more stop in Alabama! Cranes #11-12 and #7-12 battled back and forth for lead position, even cruising ahead for most of the flight. This made it harder for the last cranes (#4-12 and #6-12) to keep up. The humid air and the temperature of ~12 degrees Celsius also made it more difficult for the birds at the rear of the line, but they all made it and landed together with pilot Richard.

Day 53, November 19: The team arrived safely in Pike County, AL this morning, covering 64 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes of flying. Only 187 miles remain in this journey south!

Day 54, November 20: The Fantastic Five skipped over the first Georgia stopover and on to the FINAL Georgia stopover! They’re in Decatur County, GA after flying 116 miles and passing the thousand-mile mark!

Day 55, November 21: FLORIDA! Today’s 43-mile flight brought them to Jefferson County, FL. Just one flight to freedom remains! No flight tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Day 57, November 23: HOME! The journey south ended with today’s 45-minute flight to St. Marks NWR. Their ground speed was about 48 miles per hour, with a gentle tailwind push in smooth air. The flight was flawless. Next for the Fabulous Five will be health checks and their new leg bands and band color codes. Well done, Operation Migration Team!

Florida: Dec. 11, 2012: With health checks and banding completed Dec. 7, today the pen gate opened to finally free the young cranes!

Brooke and a team of helpers from St. Marks and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will check on the birds several times a day as they slowly learn to be wild. Each night they will call the birds back into the four acre, open-topped release pen with its 10-foot-tall fences and electric wire. The cranes will roost in one of the enclosed ponds, protected from predators while they sleep. In the mornings they will again venture out into the marsh to learn the ways of the wild. Wearing his costume, Brooke will be there watching.

January 2013: Brooke reports that #11-12 discovered her adult voice the first week in January. “No earthly entity could have been more surprised than #11-12,” reported Brooke. “She stood in stunned disbelief” at the trumpet-on-steroids call that she sent forth across the marshes! Continuing his story, Brooke added: “Crane #5-12 just stood staring in shocked amazement, unable to utter a sound. A thought balloon containing the words ‘What the …….?’ rose slowly above his head. Crane #7-12, in her usual detached and aloof manner, casually turned to #11-12 and queried, ‘Dearie, would ya mind pointing your cannon away from me?”

Feb. 8-12: The four cranes dawdled a long time before finally going back in their pen for night roosting. With the recent bobcat scare, this worried Brooke! On Feb. 9 all four birds were gone when Brooke came in the morning. He searched, but found no sign of them until Feb. 10, when two of them (#5-12 and #7-12) had returned at sunrise. They are still there, under Brooke’s watchful eyes. Cranes #4-12 and #11-12 had still not shown up by Feb. 12. Have those two begun their first spring migration? Winds have been right for migration, and many sandhill cranes have already headed north. Stay tuned!

Feb. 13: Crane #11-12 is still missing, but her “very tired” getaway companion, #4-12, returned to rejoin flockmates on Feb. 13. The search for #11-12 resumed but there was no sign of her after that.

Fall 2013: Still missing. 

Spring 2014: Still missing. She left the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge pen site in Wakulla County, Florida, on February 9, 2013. She was considered dead in mid June 2014 and removed from the population totals of the Eastern Flock.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR)

Crane #12-12 – “Sedge”

Gender: Male 
Hatch Date: May 20, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/red/green Right: white/green

Personality and Characteristics: The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Sedge” is the nickname they gave to male #12-12. This crane’s parents are in the new Eastern flock of reintroduced Whooping Cranes in central Wisconsin. The egg he hatched from was removed from the nest of #16-07 (female) and #16-02 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and taken to ICF to incubate it until hatching.

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin. Release took place Oct. 29. The chicks stood outside their boxes for several minutes looking around and flapping. Finally they took off toward the direction of the sandhill cranes that were roosting. ICF’s Marianne Wellington. “Chick #12-12 DAR and all the others except #14-12 (who took off with Sandhill Cranes) were together the next morning in the location where their costumed caretaker usually joined them. No costume waited that day for these wild and free birds!”

Oct. 31: Migration begins! Crane #12-12 DAR left Horicon with all but #14-12. They were tracked by ICF’s Eva into the Chicago area of Illinois before Eva got caught in traffic and lost signals of the cranes. It appears that the little group roosted that night in Lawrence County, Indiana.

Nov. 4: Still together, the little group of five DAR cranes left their roost location in Chester County, South Carolina. They are NOT with experienced sandhill cranes! “They are winging it on their own!” reports ICF tracker, Eva. PTT readings from #17-12 put her (likely with the others) at the Cape Romain NWR on the Atlantic Coast for the night of November 4.

Nov. 5: PTT readings for #13-12 showed they migrated from Cape Romain NWR down the coast to southern Glynn County, GA, where they roosted. The five young whoopers are likely all still together, and only 50 miles from Jacksonville, Florida!

Nov. 7: GPS PTT readings from #17-12 and also #13-12 from last night’s roost point put them within 26 miles of Paynes Prairie.

Nov. 8: PTT readings show they moved SE of Tampa, likely still all together and continued flying south, roosting in Monroe County in the Everglades (5pm location).

Dec. 28: Cranes #12-12, #12-16 and #17-12 were still in Hendry County, Florida but no longer together. On December 28, #12-12 was reported as having a possible leg injury. As of early January, trackers were still trying to send someone with tracking equipment to check on his status.

February 5, 2013: Male #12-12 has not been detected since being reported with a possible leg injury in Hendry County, Florida, on December 28, 2012.

Mid February, 2013: “The remains of Direct Autumn Release juveniles 12-12 (male) and #17-12 (female) were collected from their wintering territory in Hendry County, Florida, in mid-February. Death had likely occurred in late December or January,” reported tracker Eva Szyszkoski.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #13-12 – “Tussock”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 28, 2012
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: white/green

Personality and Characteristics: Female #13-12 is the offspring of famous male Whooping Crane named Gee Whiz, who lived at ICF in Wisconsin. Gee Whiz is the only chick produced by Tex, the female Whooping Crane that ICF Co-founder George Archibald famously danced with to prepare her for laying eggs when nothing else worked.

The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Tussock” is the nickname they gave to female #13-12.

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin.

Release took place Oct. 29. The chicks stood outside their boxes for several minutes looking around and flapping. Finally they took off toward the direction of the sandhill cranes that were roosting. ICF’s Marianne Wellington. “Chick #13-12 DAR and all the others except #14-12 (who took off with Sandhill Cranes) were together the next morning in the location where their costumed caretaker usually joined them. No costume waited today for these wild and free birds!”

Oct. 31: Migration begins! Crane #13-12 DAR left Horicon with all but #14-12. They were tracked by ICF’s Eva into the Chicago area of Illinois before Eva got caught in traffic and lost signals of the cranes. It appears that the little group roosted that night in Lawrence County, Indiana.

November 3: Crane #13-12 DAR was detected in Chester County, South Carolina by PTT data. A visual sighting by the landowner confirmed that the other 4 DAR cranes are still with her. The little group left that location on Nov. 4.

Nov. 4: Still together, the five DAR cranes left their roost location in Chester County, South Carolina. They are NOT with experienced sandhill cranes! “They are winging it on their own!” reports ICF tracker, Eva. PTT readings from #17-12 put her (likely with the others) at the Cape Romain NWR on the Atlantic Coast for the night of November 4.

Nov. 5: PTT readings for #13-12 showed they migrated from Cape Romain NWR down the coast to southern Glynn County, GA, where they roosted. The five young whoopers are likely all still together, and only 50 miles from Jacksonville, Florida!

Nov. 7: GPS PTT readings from #17-12 and also #13-12 from last night’s roost point put them within 26 miles of Paynes Prairie.

Nov. 8: PTT readings show they moved SE of Tampa, likely still all together and continued flying south, roosting in Monroe County in the Everglades (5pm location).

January 7: Crane #13-12 was still with #15-12 after they moved from their Hendry County location to Broward County, Florida December 22. She was reported with a leg injury, and walking with a limp.

January 26: Tracker Eva Szyszkoski of International Crane Foundation reported: Over the past couple of weeks, observers reported that the severity of #13-12’s limp was diminishing. However, on January 25 she was observed in a nearby neighborhood, acting very listless and sitting down a lot with an injury to her right foot. She was captured on January 26 and transported to Disney’s Animal Kingdom where doctors amputated her right middle toe and nurtured her back to health.

February 9: Crane #13-12 was driven north to freedom at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee. This makes her the first bird from this population to ever be captured, transported to a medical facility, treated, and successfully re-released back into the wild. Good luck to #13-12, who now has two toes on her right foot.

February 18: ICF tracker Eva has been monitoring #13-12’s return to the wild after toe surgery. Eva reports she is adapting to walking on her foot and she no longer limps. She is also flying very well. Way to go, #13-12!

Photo: Dr. Scott Tidmus, Disney Animal Kingdom

Spring 2013 First Unaided Spring Migration North

April 23: Crane #13-12 DAR began migration from Tennessee on April 23. PTT readings placed her in Orange/Martin Counties, Indiana that night. She continued north into Putnam County, Indiana, on April 24/25 and completed migration to Dane County, Wisconsin on May 1! Sadly, ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski reported finding #13-12’s remains on July 18 in Dane County, where she had been since arriving back in central Wisconsin. Date of death was established as June 17, 2013.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #14-12 – “Lily”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 31, 2012
Legbands: Left: green/white/red Right: white/green

Personality and Characteristics: The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Lily” is the nickname they gave to #14-12 — and yes, he is a male. His mother is Herfy, a captive female who hatched at ICF in 1990.

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin. Release took place Oct. 29. On October 30, all chicks were fine and foraging after their first overnight of freedom. Crane #14-12 (Lily) took off with Sandhill Cranes in the morning, but soon took off on his own. ICF’s Marianne Wellington had hoped he would stay with the Sandhills to learn what is outside the refuge. He stayed with the sandhill cranes and began migration on November 23. He was reported “loosely associating” with female DAR #28-05 at the Jasper-Pulaski FWA in Indiana on Nov. 25. Next he was reported with sandhill cranes in Volusia County, Florida, on December 9, where he remained through at least March 28 before spring migration.

Photo: Eva Szyszkoski, ICF

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North

April 7: Crane #14-12 DAR was reported in Berrien Co, Michigan, on April 23 and moved to Allegan County, Michigan by April 30. A crane reported in Lenawee County, Michigan, on June 14 was later confirmed as #14-12. He remained in the area at least through the end of August.

Fall 2013: Crane #14-12 DAR was not detected on his Michigan summering territory September 17 or 19. He was next reported in Jackson County, Michigan on October 28 — and in Brevard County, Florida, on January 4.

Spring 2014: Male #14-12 DAR remained in Brevard County, Florida, through at least March 27. He was reported in Kosciusko County, Indiana, on 2 May. He was next observed in LaPorte County, Indiana on 19 May—and also again on 17 August and 4 September.

Fall 2014: Crane #14-12 DAR remained in LaPorte County, Indiana, until beginning migration on the evening of 30 November or early morning 1 December. He was found in Jackson County, Indiana, on 1 December and had left this location by 5 December. Reports of a crane in Osceola County, Florida, on 18 January, and 2 and 15 February were likely of this bird.

Spring 2015: Male #14-12 DAR remained in Osceola County, Florida, through at least last report on 5 March. He was next reported at his previous summering location in LaPorte County, Indiana, on 28, 29 and 30 March. He wandered up to Kent County, Michigan for a while. He was last seen in Steuben Co, Indiana on June 7.

Fall 2015: Male #14-12 DAR migrated south to Indiana as usual.

Spring 2016: Male #14-12 and parent-reared (PR) female #27-14 were seen associating frequently in LaPorte Co, IN in March 2016. It appears they migrated north together, with #14-12 taking parent-reared #27-14 with him to a location around Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they were reported in early April.

Fall 2016: Male #14-12 DAR migrated south from Michigan to Meigs County, TN by the end of December.

Spring 2017: As usual, male #14-12 returned to Michigan. This photo shows the now 5 yr. old crane in complete molt and flightless until his primary feathers re-grow.

Male Whooping crane #14-12. Photo: Andrew Simon

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #15-12 – “Cypress”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 31, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: green/red/white

Personality and Characteristics: The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Cypress” is the nickname they gave to male #15-12.

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin.

Release took place Oct. 29. The chicks stood outside their boxes for several minutes looking around and flapping. Finally they took off toward the direction of the sandhill cranes that were roosting. ICF’s Marianne Wellington. “Chick #15-12 DAR and all the others except #14-12 (who took off with Sandhill Cranes) were together the next morning in the location where their costumed caretaker usually joined them. No costume waited today for these wild and free birds!”

Oct. 31: Migration begins! Crane #15-12 DAR left Horicon with all but #14-12. They were tracked by ICF’s Eva into the Chicago area of Illinois before Eva got caught in traffic and lost signals of the cranes. It appears that the little group roosted that night in Lawrence County, Indiana.

November 3: Signals from the PTT-wearing females (#17-12 DAR and #13-12 DAR) were detected in Chester County, South Carolina. A visual sighting by the landowner confirmed that the little group of five remains together and left on Nov. 4.

Nov. 4: Still together, the five DAR cranes left their roost location in Chester County, South Carolina. They are NOT with experienced sandhill cranes! “They are winging it on their own!” reports ICF tracker, Eva. PTT readings from #17-12 put her (likely with the others) at the Cape Romain NWR on the Atlantic Coast for the night of November 4.

Nov. 5: PTT readings for #13-12 showed they migrated from Cape Romain NWR down the coast to southern Glynn County, GA, where they roosted. The five young whoopers are likely all still together, and only 50 miles from Jacksonville, Florida!

Nov. 7: GPS PTT readings from #17-12 and also #13-12 from last night’s roost point put them within 26 miles of Paynes Prairie.

Nov. 8: PTT readings show they moved SE of Tampa, likely still all together and continued flying south, roosting in Monroe County in the Everglades (5pm location).

January 7, 2013: Crane #15-12 was still with #13-12 after they moved from their Hendry County location to Broward County, Florida on December 22.

February 10, 2013: Male #15-12 DAR was captured from a neighborhood in Broward County, Florida, and relocated and released in Hendry County, where he remained through at least February 20.

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North

March 8: Information received on 8 March indicated that #15-12 DAR may have migrated with sandhills in late February or early March. No further reports.

Fall 2013: Still missing.

Spring 2014: Still missing since last reported possibly leaving on migration with sandhill cranes from Hendry County, Florida, in late February or early March 2013. He was considered dead by mid June 2014 and removed from the population totals of the Eastern Flock.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #16-12 – “Fireweed”

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 2, 2012
Legbands: Left: red/white/red Right: white/green

Personality and Characteristics: The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Fireweed” is the nickname they gave to male #16-12. This crane’s parents are in the new Eastern flock of reintroduced Whooping Cranes in central Wisconsin. The egg he hatched from was removed from the nest of #16-07 (female) and #16-02 at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and taken to ICF to incubate it until hatching. (The other egg from the nest hatched into #12-12 DAR, so they are siblings.)

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin.

Release took place Oct. 29. The chicks stood outside their boxes for several minutes looking around and flapping. Finally they took off toward the direction of the sandhill cranes that were roosting. ICF’s Marianne Wellington. “Chick #16-12 DAR and all the others except #14-12 (who took off with Sandhill Cranes) were together the next morning in the location where their costumed caretaker usually joined them. No costume waited today for these wild and free birds!”

Oct. 31: Migration begins! Crane #15-12 DAR left Horicon with all but #14-12. They were tracked by ICF’s Eva into the Chicago area of Illinois before Eva got caught in traffic and lost signals of the cranes. It appears that the little group roosted that night in Lawrence County, Indiana.

November 3: Signals from the PTT-wearing females (#17-12 DAR and #13-12 DAR) were detected in Chester County, South Carolina. A visual sighting by the landowner confirmed that the little group of five remains together and left on Nov. 4.

Nov. 4: Still together, the five DAR cranes left their roost location in Chester County, South Carolina. They are NOT with experienced sandhill cranes! “They are winging it on their own!” reports ICF tracker, Eva. PTT readings from #17-12 put her (likely with the others) at the Cape Romain NWR on the Atlantic Coast for the night of November 4.

Nov. 5: PTT readings for #13-12 DAR showed they migrated from Cape Romain NWR down the coast to southern Glynn County, GA, where they roosted. The five young whoopers are likely all still together, and only 50 miles from Jacksonville, Florida!

Nov. 7: GPS PTT readings from #17-12 DAR and also #13-12 DAR from last night’s roost point put them within 26 miles of Paynes Prairie, FL.

Nov. 8: PTT readings show they moved SE of Tampa, Florida, likely still all together and continued flying south, roosting in Monroe County in the Everglades (5pm location).

January 7, 2013: Cranes #16-12 DAR, #12-12 DAR and #17-12 DAR remained in Hendry County, Florida but are no longer together.

February 5, 2013: Cranes #16-12 DAR and #17-12 DAR remain in Hendry County, Florida, previously reported as associating with each other on only a few occasions. He was seen there at least through April 9, before spring migration north.

Spring 2013: First Unaided Spring Migration North

Crane #16-12 DAR was reported in Dodge County, Wisconsin, on April 29. On May 14 a nearby landowner reported this male was still there, in the company of two or three Sandhill cranes. He remained at least through the end of August, with other Sandhill cranes.

Photo: Lee Buescher

Fall 2013: Crane #16-12 DAR remained with sandhills in Dodge County, Wisconsin, until moving to Columbia County by September 6 and began migration from there on November 22/23. He was confirmed at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama on December 4, but had likely arrived earlier. He remained in the area.

Spring 2014: Crane #16-12 DAR began migration from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 16-25 February. He was reported in Jackson County, Indiana, on 26 February through at least 21 March. He was next reported in Jasper County, Indiana, on 29 March; Dane County, Wisconsin on 7 April; Green Lake County on 9 April and Columbia County on 10 and 11 April. Migration was pretty much complete once he reached WI. He was found in Monroe County during a flight on 5 May. He remained here through at least mid July.

Fall 2014: Crane #16-12 DAR began migration from Monroe County, Wisconsin, on November 17th. He was found in Jackson County, Indiana, on November 19th and remained through approximately January 6th. He was confirmed at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, Meigs County, Tennessee, on January 8, 2015 and was last detected at this location the following two days. No subsequent reports.

Spring 2015: No reports or sightings since January 10 at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge… but he did return to Juneau County, Wisconsin for the summer.

Fall 2015: Crane #16-12 was still in in Juneau County, Wisconsin, as of Nov. 28. ICF tracker Anne Lacey confirmed the ID of a single whooping crane in a field with hundreds of staging sandhills down the road from her house… and it was #16-12! Anne reported, “It appears as though he spent the summer alone, unfortunately.”

Spring 2016: He returned to Juneau County, WI. for the summer, alone.

Fall 2016: Migrated to Wheeler NWR for the winter.

Spring 2017: He returned to Juneau County Wisconsin. Male #16-12 still has no mate, but he has a buddy in #12-09. The two birds hang out together in Juneau County.

Winter 2017/18: A crane identified as #16-12 is spotted in Okeechobee County, FL in January 2018. He is near but not associating with, #72-17, a Parent-Reared crane released in 2017.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Crane #17-12 – “Rush”

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 10, 2012
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: red/red

Personality and Characteristics: The crew at ICF chose “prairies and wetlands” for the theme in naming the 2012 DAR birds they would costume-rear for later release with wild cranes. “Rush” is the nickname they gave to female #17-12. She hatched from an egg transferred from the Calgary Zoo in Canada. She is the offspring of Nelson (female), who hatched at ICF in 1993 from an egg collected from a wild crane on the main (Western) flock’s breeding grounds in Canada, and sent to Calgary Zoo as a juvenile crane).

Fall 2012: In early September, the chicks were transferred to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for their release in central Wisconsin.

Release took place Oct. 29. The chicks stood outside their boxes for several minutes looking around and flapping. Finally they took off toward the direction of the sandhill cranes that were roosting. ICF’s Marianne Wellington. “Chick #17-12 DAR and all the others except #14-12 (who took off with Sandshill Cranes) were together the next morning in the location where their costumed caretaker usually joined them. No costume waited this day for these wild and free birds!”

Oct. 31: Migration begins! Crane #17-12 DAR left Horicon with all the other DAR chicks but #14-12. They were tracked by ICF’s Eva into the Chicago area of Illinois before Eva got caught in traffic and lost signals of the cranes. It appears that the little group roosted that night in Lawrence County, Indiana.

November 3: Crane #17-12 DAR was detected in Chester County, South Carolina by PTT data. Hooray! Also, signals from #13-12’s PTT showed that the two females are together. A visual sighting by the landowner confirmed that the little group of five remains together and left on Nov. 4.

Nov. 4: Still together, the five DAR cranes left their roost location in Chester County, South Carolina. They are NOT with experienced sandhill cranes! “They are winging it on their own!” reports ICF tracker, Eva. PTT readings from #17-12 put her (likely with the others) at the Cape Romain NWR on the Atlantic Coast for the night of November 4.

Nov. 5: PTT readings for #13-12 showed they migrated from Cape Romain NWR down the coast to southern Glynn County, GA, where they roosted. The five young whoopers are likely all still together, and only 50 miles from Jacksonville, Florida!

Nov. 7: GPS PTT readings from #17-12 and also #13-12 from last night’s roost point put them within 26 miles of Paynes Prairie.

Nov. 8: PTT readings show they moved SE of Tampa, likely still all together and continued flying south, roosting in Monroe County in the Everglades (5pm location).

January 7, 2013: Cranes #16-12, #12-12 and #17-12 remained in Hendry County, Florida but are no longer together.

February 5, 2013: Cranes #17-12 and #16-12 remain in Hendry County, Florida, previously reported as associating with each other on only a few occasions. Female #17-12 has not been reported for a few weeks; however, PTT information received on the night of January 25 indicated that she was still in the area. ICF tracker Eva announced in mid February:

“The remains of Direct Autumn Release juveniles #12-12 (male) and #17-12 (female) were collected from their wintering territory in Hendry County, Florida, in mid-February. Death had likely occurred in late December or January.” Bobcat predation is suspected cause of death for both of these cranes.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Group 3 – Wild hatched Whooping cranes

Nine chicks hatched in the new Eastern flock in spring 2012. Two survived to fledge and migrate: 

Whooping crane W1-12

Date Hatched: April 30, 2012
Gender: Male
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: white/red/white

Summer 2012: Crane chick #W1-12 was the first wild-hatched chick of the eastern flock’s 2012 breeding season. The chick was photographed from the air by tracker Eva Szyszkoski on July , 2012:

The young wild hatched chick continued to grow over the summer and was captured and banded in September. Here’s a photo of him without legbands.

The parents did NOT continue migration to their usual winter territory in Pascoe County, Florida, but spent the winter in Indiana. 

Photo: Eva Szyszkoski, ICF

The photo below was taken in February 2013 by Steve Smith. Female #19-04 at the left, chick #W1-12 in the middle, and father #12-02 on the right.

The young crane colt still has a small amount of brown feathering on his neck. Photo: Steve Smith

Spring 2013: Sub-adult #W1-12 completed migration back to the Wisconsin nesting grounds on April 2 with her parents. She was reported near, but not on, her parents territory by mid April when they were already sitting on a new nest.

Fall 2013: W1-12 was found dead at the beginning of October during a flight by Wisconsin DNR. Also found dead the same day was #W8-12. The two yearling cranes were both heavily scavenged. They had last been observed alive during a DNR survey flight on September 9, 2013.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.


Whooping crane W8-12

Hatch Date: May 21, 2012
Gender: Female
Legbands: Left: white/green Right: red/green/white

Summer 2012: Crane chick #W8-12 was hatched from the summer’s second nest of #13-03 and #9-05 on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. The chick was confirmed during a tracking flight over the refuge on May 21. 

Fall/winter 2012-2013: The chick migrated south with its parents in the fall, and the family was believed to be in Indiana as of Dec. 21. ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski photographed #W8-12 with a parent on the family’s Indiana wintering grounds on Feb. 15, 2013:

Spring 2013: On March 30 sub-adult #W8-12 completed her first migration north, and is back on the refuge property with her parents, #13-03 and #9-05. HOORAY!

Fall 2013: W8-12 was found dead at the beginning of October during a flight by Wisconsin DNR. Also found dead the same day was #W1-12. The two yearling cranes were both heavily scavenged. They had last been observed alive during a DNR survey flight on September 9, 2013.

Click here to jump to the top of this page.