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

Crane #2-11

Date Hatched

April 29, 2011



Egg Source

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg

Temporary/migration band:black

  • 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
Female #2-11 started off calmer than 1-11 and was a good average learner for eating, drinking, and going in-and-outside. But she got more jittery as she got older. "When 1-11 seemed to stop pacing after brood model Sadie, 2-11 started pacing after her (or the costume) more," said Geoff. "And, as the week went by, it wasn’t uncommon to hear #2 peeping more than 1-11 did. The peeping is only a problem if she’s losing weight, but that wasn't happening. So whatever worries #2 from time to time doesn’t seem very serious."

Geoff calls # 2-11 and 4-11 his "swamp girls" because they like the water so much. They've became good leaders to show the other chicks how to enjoy the ponds. Chick #2 (and 4) made Caleb think that girls mature faster because whenever one of the older chicks got them nervous enough to start peeping and pacing, they were always the first chicks to calm down again.

Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
Crane #2-11 arrived in Wisconsin on June 28 with her Class of 2011 flockmates.

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, completely 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." Hooray!

Crane #2-11 became the ace flyer. By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. Some of them, like #2, #4, and #6, tried to follow the trike as it gained altitude, but inevitably they end up looping around and then landing. By August she was the best flyer. She followed the plane dependably. By the end of August the other young cranes would follow her lead, although about half of the birds would usually turn back. Crane 2 is still the leader. Richard says she follows as if tied to the wing of the trike!


This is crane #2-11 on July 19 as she got airborne following Richard's trike during a high-speed taxi run along the grass training strip.
Image: Operation Migration

August 16: Keeping up with the ultralight plane!


Image: Doug Pellerin

September 8, 2011


Image: Geoff Tarbox

On August 22, she flew well on the first and second take offs, but NO cranes took off on the pilot's third take off. It took swamp monster to scare them into the air, but #2 and five others managed to catch up and follow the trike to a remote field. They landed with the plane, had treats, and flew back. She remains one of the top fliers.

She made steady gains with every training session and has figured out the "sweet spot:" how to surf and soar in the wake created by the ultralight's wing. The pilots believe that she is one of the cranes who is ready now for migration. Maybe she's a good influence: A week later, nine took off and finally made their first long flight with the ultralight with no dropouts!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane#2-11: "In my opinion, 2-11 is one of our bolder birds. It probably comes with being one of the older birds of the flock. But I'd say that she's pretty adventurous, and she's not afraid to take a chance every now and then. When we first let her into the pen and back outside through the gate, she was into it every step of the way. She didn't need much help finding her way in or out, nor did she need much reassurance once she was outside. Usually when she was outside, it always took a bit of coaxing to convince her to come back inside so that we could get on with our morning chores, such as cleaning the footbaths.

"It looks like she's held onto this attitude. She was one of the first ones to take to the skies, and through most of the summer, could be counted on to latch onto the wing of the aircraft. She had a few days where she hung out on the ground, but everyone has their off days. She also has an independent streak. Some days, she'll shy away from the costume and require extra attention and coaxing to lead; other days she'll greet you with a smile on her beak."


First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:
Crane #2-11 left White River Marsh SWA on her first migration on October 9, 2011. She was one of five in the Class of 2011 to take off. When the air got bumpy, she turned around and headed back, but Richard swooped in as chase pilot and #2 then flew the the rest of the way with Richard. She was one of only three to go the 4.6-mile distance to the first stopover on Day 1. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #2-11 below.

Day 13, Oct. 21, 2011: Crane #2 launched with the rest of the birds when pilots attempted to leave the first stopover site. In the typical chaos that ensued, some birds turned back to land l at the pen, and some in fields nearby. Each pilot was trying to lead birds still flying. In the middle of keeping track of ten birds, they lost sight of #2. Trackers could not find her, and the search for her continues. They suspect that her transmitter has failed and no longer gives off a signal. She may have caught a thermal and kept flying. They hope someone will catch sight of her and call the team so they can bring her back.

TERRIFIC NEWS!!! Missing female #2-11 was seen with a flock of sandhill cranes on Oct. 26! A birder spotted her and news went out. The OM tracking vans were on the scene as soon as possible but unable to capture her when the flock flushed and took off. Her transmitter is indeed not working, but she is alive, well, and with good migration guides. However, Operation Migration hopes and needs to recapture her so she can have a permanent leg band attached. Being banded and identified is a government requirement for all Whooping cranes in the new Eastern flock.

Missing female #2-11 is found among hundreds of sandhill cranes, alive and well, but also rather uncapturable.

She was seen again on November 6, in the same location (Photo by Tom Schultz):

Wayward female #2 from the Class of 2011 is with Sandhill cranes in Wisconsin.

By mid November, the 7-month old female was considered RELEASED by WCEP.

Nov. 21, 2011: A Whooping crane (was it #2-11?) was seen migrating in Georgia today, on a course about 21 miles northeast of the Gordon County stopover on the old (more easterly) migration route used by Operation Migration pilots until the route was altered in 2008.

Crane 11-02 migrating over Georgia with sandhill cranes..

December 14, 2011: Hooray! Escaped crane #2-11 completed migration! She was confirmed with sandhill cranes at Allatoona Lake, Georgia, on 19 November 19 and had reached Lake County, Florida, by November 27. She is with many sandhill cranes and one Whooping crane ( #10-10) during a telemetry flight by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

First Migration North: Spring 2012: She remained with Whooping Crane #10-10 and Sandhill cranes in Lake County, Florida, until beginning spring migration on February 13—the very day that ICF tracker Eva's team was hoping to capture #2 to attach a tracking band. She was last positively identified at the Hiwassee WR in Tennessee on Feb. 16; however, one unidentified JUVENILE was seen and photographed with sandhill cranes in Barren County, Kentucky, on Feb. 18th," reported Eva. "I'm guessing that this crane was probably her, but the only thing we can really be sure of is that the bird still has a brown head (juvenile)." Good news came on March 26: 2-11 was confirmed in Adams County, Wisconsin, thanks to her band and an ICF Field Ecology Intern who saw her. She is with a couple hundred sandhill cranes and at a location with two other adult Whooping crane pairs [#924 & 42-09 (DAR), and #905 & #733]. She was still in Adams County in June l.

Fall 2012: Runaway #2-11 wintered in Florida. She was reported with sandhill cranes in Marion County, Florida, on February 25.

Spring 2013: She was reported still at her wintering location in Florida on the morning of April 9. According to ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski, that's the last sighting of her.

Fall 2013: Female #2-11 has not been seen or detected since April 9, 2013 in Florida.

Spring 2014: Still missing.

Fall 2014: Still missing. She cannot be tracked because her transmitter doesn't work. Trackers suspect she has died. She was removed from the population totals in April 2015.

Last updated: 1/6/15

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