Meet the 2009 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2009 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 904 (4-09)

Date Hatched

May 6, 2009



Egg Source

Patuxent WRC

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
  radio antenna


  • Read about the naming system, hatch place in Maryland, release site in Wisconsin, over-wintering site in Florida, and leg-band codes.

Personality, Early Training
Notes from the captive breeding "hatchery" at Patuxent WRC in Maryland:

During training, 904 jumps straight up and down, wings flapping, because she is so excited to be out of her pen. Barb said #904 was always perfect and so beautiful. But by June 9, her leg became severely bowed almost overnight — very bad news. Barb and Bev swam the chick three times a day in hopes of preventing the leg from getting worse. With a small miracle, swimming might even improve 904's leg. The handlers normally only swim the chicks until they are 21 days old, unless the legs are weak or starting to rotate. So swimming a 34-day-old chick is a big deal. They began right away. Three days later Bev nervously went to check on 904: "I turned on the vocalizer, opened the gate and looked in. She was hock sitting and preening her newly sprouting feathers. She saw me and stood and slowly ambled over towards me. I wanted to close my eyes until I realized I was looking at a pair of nearly straight legs! Unbelievably, the swimming worked! The progress held, and in less than a week’s time #904's leg went from perfect, to bowed, to perfect again. Barb has never see a chick's bowed legs be straightened so well as 904's, and she called it a miracle. Now #904 was feeling better. She was running and hopping again. When Bev brought the little group back from the pond the evening of June 14, #904 led the group! She hopped out in front of the them, flapping her wings. Over and over she ran far ahead, then turned and ran back to join the group. Bev said, "She is definitely on the road to recovery." Hooray, 904!

Notes of Flight School in Wisconsin:

Cohort 1 FLYING Aug. 17 Photo Bev Paulan, Operation Migration

She was flown to Wisconsin with Cohort One chicks on June 25. When they were finally led into their new pen, the tired 904 took a nap. When she awoke, she had a snack and wandered around — right at home! She did well in training sessions, and like all the chicks in cohort one, she was flying by July 20. By early August cohort one was flying circles over the training areas. By mid-August they were flying larger and longer circuits. She is a natural! Geoff thinks #904 seems very curious. She comes up to costumed Geoff when he's sweeping up spilled crane food, as if to say, "What's this? What are you doing?"

The health checks in September made #904 extra wary of the costumes. She gave them dirty looks for 3 days and was last to "forgive" the crane handlers. She became the last chick to exit the pen for training. She has overcome a lot of challenges in her short life, and she can overcome her grudge, too.

First Migration South: Chick #904 (and 14 others!) turned back to Necedah NWR when the Class of 2009 left on their first migration on October 16, 2009. They all had to try again the next day to follow the ultralights to the migration's first stopover site, where five flockmates landed on Day 1. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #904 below.

Oct. 27: Today chick 904 was a great follower! She flew to Stopover #2 with six flockmates and Richard's ultralight. She's getting better! This photo was captured from the CraneCam soon after arrival of the seven "leaders."

Nov. 1: Hooray! 904 (and ALL the others!) flew the distance to Stopover #3. No crates needed! Now we can expect more days like this.

Bev says 904, the second-oldest female, is, and always has been the most graceful of the flock. Bev thinks she is the most beautiful. Her black 'mustache' coupled with her mostly white plumage and fine delicate legs, make her a real beauty.

Nov 20: Crane 904 was one of the 16 who flew off on this exercise day and didn't come back! The 16 flew more than 15 miles before Richard located and caught up to them. He then turned them on course and led them to safe landing at the next planned stopover. Until today, this has never happened since the pilots began leading whoopers south in 2001.

January 7: Female 904 was one of three leaders on this double-leg flight. She led most of the first leg before 906 took over. But 906 kept diving below the wing, and leading the rest of the birds with him. Richard said, "I guess 905 disliked this behavior, as it made the birds at the back of the line work harder, and decided to take the lead away from 906." She broke out from the back of the line and out of the slipstream, charged ahead past all of the other birds, and butted in front of 906 to take the lead!

January 20, 2010, Day 89: Migration complete for the "Chass 10:" #901, 903, 904, 905, 907, 913, 919, 924, 927, and 929! Female 904 flew all but 6 miles of this migration!

Photo Eva Szyszkoski, ICF

Winter at Chass Release Site: Eva says, "Chick 904 looks a lot like an adult. She has very little brown plumage left. Sometimes we mistake her for an adult when we are in the blind until we get a close look at either her leg bands or her head. She may have a lot of white plumage, but she doesn't have the red head patch of an adult quite yet."

The nine remaining chicks at Chass (#903 disappeared) with adult pair #105 and #501 were beginning to show signs of migration restlessness on March 13. Eva said, "It was a windy night and they continued to fly around, land, fly around, land, fly around, land…well, you get the picture. This is typical behavior for the chicks before they decide to head back north. Although it would be a little on the early side for them to be leaving this week, we are not sure if the adult pair will entice the chicks to leave earlier then they would otherwise."

Spring 2010, First Journey North: The "Chass 9" crane kids (901, 904, 905, 907, 913, 919, 924, 927 and 929) began migration on April 5 at 10:00 a.m. With them were subadults 824, 827 and 830. While they did not remain in one group for the whole flight, they ended up landing together in Grady County, Georgia around 6:00 p.m. The Chass group, now minus #907, who took off on her own in the early morning of April 6, continued migration and roosted the night of April 6 in Jackson County, Alabama. This was just 10 miles from the Tennessee border, and 285 miles from their previous stop. On April 7 they flew 250 miles to Orange County, Indiana where they dropped out early because of deteriorating weather conditions. The group of 11 continued migration to Porter County, Indiana (southeast of Chicago), on April 9. Here they split into a group of eight (#824, 827 and 830, 901, 904, 905, 924 and 929) and a group of three (#913, 919 and 927). Both groups continued migration the next day (April 10), when the group of eight made it home. Their signals were detected the next day, April 11, on Necedah NWR: migration complete!

Fall 2010: Last to leave Necedah NRW on migration, cranes #904 (4-09) and #416 (16-04) departed December 1. These two were likely the two reported in Shelby County, Illinois on Dec. 6 with cranes #712 (12-07), #717 (17-07) and 31-08 (DAR). Four of these cranes were detected together in flight through western Kentucky on that same day. Winter location?

Spring 2011: First to arrive! Cranes 416 and 904 (16-04 and 4-09) were seen at 2:10 on March 9 back on Necedah NWR. "They may have arrived yesterday before last night's snowstorm. Refuge pools remain frozen and snow-covered," reported biologist Richard Urbanek." They were photographed at an Illinois migration stopover (see photo) before they resumed migration. (These two were the last to leave Necedah NWR last fall and they returned before the snows cleared in the spring!) The pair was observed nest building but without successfully nesting. (She is too young yet.)

Fall 2011: Cranes 904 and #416 (4-09 and 16-04) migrated to Parke and Vigo Counties, Indiana, for the winter.

Spring 2012: Cranes Cranes #4-09 and #16-04 (formerly numbered 904 and 416) were detected back on Necedah NWR on March 11, migration complete. How does this compare with last year's arrival date? They were on a nest by April 14 or 15. Aerial trackers next reported the pair was apparently provisioning at least one chick (this would be #W6-12). The pair was off nest when trackers observed them from a plane on May 21. They appeared to be tending a chick but it had disappeared by the June 15 nest check.

Fall 2012:

Spring 2013: Cranes #4-09 and #16-04 (formerly numbered 904 and 416) completed spring migration and were photographed walking along a still- frozen stream near their territory in central Wisconsin on March 27, 2013 by pilot Bev Paulan during an aerial flight:

Cranes 904 and 416 upon their arrival back in snowy Wisconsin on March 27, 2013.

By late April or early May they were reported nesting. This pair was among only three crane pairs still sitting on a nest on May 7 after a three-day span when all 17 other nests were abandoned, possibly due to an outbreak of black flies, but they abandoned their nest shortly after that.

Fall 2013: Cranes #4-09 and #16-04 were likely the two cranes reported in Vermillion County, Indiana, on November 16. By January 4 theyhad moved to Knox County, Indiana and were still there on January 31.

Spring 2014: Pair 16-04/4-09 arrived back on territory in Monroe County, Wisconsin, by/on March 21. They nested and the nest was still active when checked on April 30! But on May 5, female 4-09 was found dead. She was completely intact, with no signs of predation. "The health lab says that cause of death was blunt trauma to the body." reported tracker Eva Szyszkosk, who explained: "It means that something hit her or she hit something very hard, however the more likely thing is that something hit her because her humerus was broken, which means that she wouldn't have been able to fly. She was found about 30 meters from the nest." The loss of another breeding female is bad news for this endangered species.

Last updated: 5/7/14

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