Meet the Class of 2011 Whooping Cranes!
Hatch-year 2011 of the Eastern Flock

Crane #1-11

Date Hatched

April 28, 2011



Egg Source

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
(VHF radio transmitter)

Temporary migration band: white

  • 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

This first-born bird started off acting fairly neurotic. When he started eating on his own, he seemed to level out a bit. He wasn?t too scared of the trike when Brooke first started the engine, and as always, he learned pretty fast not to run from the trike, reports Geoff. Caleb said 1-11 was a little "pecky" when the chicks were put together to socialize. He didn't pick fights, but he did remind the other birds who was "top bird." He especially did this with any chick that was in the footbath when he wanted to be in it. Before long he didn't have to act so much like king of the hill because the other chicks learned not to challenge him. Because he is IS king of the hill, he doesn't scare as easily.
#1-11 and #3-11 take a dip.

By mid June, they’d been walked together and were training together as one big unit. On June 21 all but one (crazy #8) of the 11 chicks were together at last in one big wet pen. All were playing nicely except 1-11! Being biggest and oldest, he feels entitled to nip at birds who happen to be in his way. For example, once he beak-jabbed #10 while #10 was just lying down, minding his own business. This behavior doesn't make #1-11 a model citizen, says Geoff. "But as long as he doesn’t go for the face, peck too hard, or start chasing after birds like 8-11 does, then I won’t lose sleep over it. He’s not looking to throw down like 8-11, but just say 'Get out of my way.'"

Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
Male #1-11 arrived in Wisconsin on June 28, 2011 with the rest of the chicks in the Class of 2011.

July 11 was a thrilling day for Geoff and Caleb, watching the chicks through a peephole during training. "We saw two birds soar for a couple dozen yards, feet off the ground; I couldn’t tell which birds I was looking at since their bands were too far out. But if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say they were # 1 and #2, since the older birds are typically the first ones to experience flight."

By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. Except for cranes #2, #4 and #6, the rest slammed on their brakes as soon as the trike took off. But #1 surprised the team on Aug. 12. The team had been training the best fliers, #2, #4 and #6, by themselves. But when they accidentally released #1 instead of #6, Geoff exclaimed: "He flew with #2 for about as long as she did, which has never happened before!" Maybe he just needed this special chance. However, when ALL TEN birds took off with the ultralight on August 23, crane #1 dropped way back and landed in the marsh to spend the next two hours. As of August 25, crane #1 still had not made a real effort to leave the runway. Geoff says they are lucky just to get him to take off, if only briefly.

September 8, 2011
Image: Geoff Tarbox

Crane #1 is very possessive. Whenever another bird has an interesting stick or a frog or even a clump of mud, #1 charges over and tries to take it away. He has always liked his personal space, and has never been afraid to jab at birds who get too close or get in his way. Watching the crane cam, Heather concluded that #1 is the BULLY of the group. "Every time another bird is resting (hock-sitting or lying down), #1 never fails to stroll over and peck the resting bird in the butt! On August 30, however, #7 chased him off three times. He got out of her way FAST for the rest of the day."

Sep. 11: Lost and Found. Instead of taking off with the aircraft and 9 other birds, # 1-11 flew just above ground level and straight north as if on a mission. Then he plopped down and disappeared in a tangle of thick, tall brambles. Joe radioed the location to Caleb, who headed there in the tracking van to find and retrieve the wayward bird. What followed was a huge scare for both Caleb and #1-10. It turned out okay, but you'll want to see Caleb's story:

When Joe was finally able to locate and rescue them both, #1 was too exhausted to walk. They carried him to the crate, placed it in the van and slowly drove back to the pen. The young bird was fatigued, parched, aching, and wounded. After just a few minutes in the quiet pen, the Joe and Caleb were excited and encouraged to see #1 get up and walk over to a water bucket. He was kept alone to rest fo rthe next 30 hours. By then the team knew he wanted bvious he wanted back with his cohort and into the wet pen. He was moving around and even pacing by the fence to the went pen. No training took place for the next 3 days.

Crane #1 seemed rather standoff-ish to the costumes. He wasn’t himself. He didn’t fight others for grapes; he didn't care about smelt, and avoided confrontation with other birds. It was a good sign on September 14 when all the birds— including #1—ran up to greet Brooke as soon as he (in his costume, as always) entered the pen. The birds had their next training session Sep. 16. Crane #1 came out of the pen with enthusiasm, but he didn't open his wings and stuck close to the pen. Same thing the next day, and the next. He has not been following the trike and when let out onto the field, he paces and looks for a way back into the safety of the wet pen. Then the team began physical therapy—stretching and exercising #1's wings by moving them. It seems to help, and he's getting better. A happy surprise came when #3-11 challenged #1, locking eyes with him. When #3 looked away first in submission, it was a victory for #1. It’s a slow process but #1-11 is coming back.

On Sep. 23, the team let #1 out of the pen after the second flight training to join his classmates for grape treats, but as soon as Brooke started up the trike engine, #1 turned and headed for the pen. They were happy to see #1 run and fully extend his wings several times. He is looking better every day, but the team had worried about him being trike-shy. If that continues, it may happen that they will have to crate him and move him away from the pen to get him flying again.

Flying Again! Led by Richard's trike, all ten of the colts got airborne on September 26! Our boy #1 few b ut landed at the end of the runway while the rest continued on behind the trike. When they all landed, #1 was eager to join the fliers for some treats near the trike. Good!!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane#1-11: "Earlier in the year, he quickly asserted himself as the Alpha Bird. And after his little misadventure [getting lost and injured] in September, that hasn't changed a bit. Even when he was still recovering, he threw his weight around in his own quiet way. A day or two after his misadventure, Brooke and I caught 3-11 sneaking up behind 1-11 as he was laying down, hoping to knock the big guy down a few pegs. However, one sharp look from 1-11, and #3 was sent packing. The whole thing didn’t last more than a minute, and #1 didn't even get up. None of the other birds went near him. It takes a very commanding bird to be that intimidating even when he's at his weakest. He still pecks at birds (but not too forcefully) that happen to be in his way. Plus, he'll often jump-rake other birds on the runway, whether they just happen to be in his personal bubble as they come out the door, or if he's just in a rotten mood.

"Despite his tough guy routine, he seems to have developed a narrow comfort zone since coming out to Wisconsin. He doesn't like to leave the pen or the runway. Or at least, not for long. Sadly, it seems imprinted into him now. I'm thinking he's going to have to be boxed the first two stops of migration before he makes any real progress."

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:

Crane #1-11 was one of the five birds who took off from White River Marsh SWA when the migration began on October 9, 2011. He flew for a short time but turned back, and did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1, 2, or 3. He (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven to Stopover #1 after the thrid attempt to fly (Day 3). Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #1-11 below.

Day 20, Oct. 28, 2011: This was a milestone flight: Crane #1 made it the entire way! (He was lost in the woods with Caleb back in August. His minor injuries kept him out of flight training for a few days and then be became reluctant to fly.) Today he flew his FIRST entire leg of this migration and in spite of challenging events. He and four others were flying with Richard when Richard started losing altitude trying to keepa spooked #6 with him. Richard landed with all five birds rather than risk losing one in strange territory. After a rest (when #6 was crated and driven), Richard took off with cranes 1, 4, 9 and 10 and flew the remaining 20 miles in the headwind, which took almost an hour. Hooray for Crane #1!!!

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #1—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It's the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with abig flock of wild sandhills.) But Crane #1 is back!

Day 32: Nov. 9, 2011: Crane #1-11 has been the target of aggression from other cranes in the long, boring confinement at the Livingston County stopover in Illinois. He's been bitten on the neck, and then had more feathers on his neck plucked out. The team is worried, and hopes each day to get the migration moving again.

Day 43: Nov. 20, 2011: Crane #1-11 took off with his flock mates after 15 downo-days, but he dropped down 22 miles into the journey. He landed, took off again. Luckily he landed again, which helped trackers reach him and box him up for the drive to the Piatt County Stopover.

January 30, 2012: Still in Alabama, the team ended the migration after wind and weather woes delayed it beyond the time when the cranes were willing to migrate. This is the first time in this 11-year project that the planes and cranes did not reach their Florida goal.. The birds will stay in the travel pen for a few days until leaders of the Whopping Crane Eastern Partnership decide a good nearby place for them to spend winter.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place Feb. 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #1-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North: Crane #1-11 had not been seen since he left the Wheeler NWR wintering grounds with his flockmates on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. — until he finally showed up in Columbia County, Wisconsin on July 31! His location was only about 40 miles from the pen site at White River Marsh where he and the Class of 2012 learned to fly with the ultralight. Well done, #1-11!

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Migrated back to Wisconsin on or by April 1.

Fall 2013: Found in Monroe County, WI, on 12 November 2013. Moved to Sauk County, WI by 19 November, remained through at least 21 November. Next reported at his wintering location at the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 30 November.

Spring 2014: Began migration prior to 2 March when he was reported with #18-11 in Gibson County, Indiana. They remained at this location through at least 8 March and were not detected there on 14 March. He was reported in Price County, Wisconsin, on 23 April and remained at least through early May 1.

Fall 2014: Began migration from St. Croix County, WI sometime the week of Nov. 4-11 and spent winter at Wheeler NWR, Alabama.

Spring 2015: Male #1-11 was phototgraphed when he made a brief migration stop in Winnebago County, Illinois around March 20. Nearly four years old now, he spent the winter in Morgan County, Alabama and is heading back to Wisconsin for the summer. It's not yet known whether he has selected a mate, but he is now of breeding age.

#1-11 on migration over Illinois, March 2015

Fall 2015: Migrated from St. Croix County, WI and wintered at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2016: #1-11 (M) and his new mate #59-13 DAR (Latka) returned together by April 1 from their wintering location at Wheeler NWR to 1-11’s summer territory in St. Croix County, WI. They nested and on May 17, new chick W6-16 was first seen with the parents. The chick was no longer alive by July 1.

Fall 2016: Male #1-11, with Latke (DAR#59-13), migrated in November to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2017: Male #1-11 and mate DAR#59-13 were on territory and nesting by early April!


Last updated: 4/10/17

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