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

Crane #4-11

Date Hatched

May 5, 2011



Egg Source

Eastern Flock (rescued egg from nest of #309 and #403)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
(VHF radio transmitter)

Temporary/migration band: blue

  • 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

Chick 4 is the moody sibling to 3-11, reports Geoff. But he has to give her credit for already for eating and drinking by herself at a mere two days of age. However, Goff said nothing would get #4 to go near either the big or the small water jug: "It was as if those jugs had grown a second head and scared her!" Notes on the chick's chart said that sometimes she only drank from a gold bowl she used back when she was in the ICU. But Geoff figured if he could get her to drink out of a jug once, he could do it again. After 20 minutes of trying, Geoff gave up and went in search of the gold bowl so the chick would drink. "I took it back to the kitchen to fill it up with some nice, cool, clean water. By the time I got back, I found her drinking out the large jug completely on her own, like that jug was her best friend in the whole wide world. Kids!" Speaking of water, chick #4 liked to swim (photo).

Caleb called her pretty mellow. "Every now and then #3 and #4 peeped or paced, but they usually only did it because some other bird got them worked up. But these two were never the first ones to break down, and they were the first to calm back down when they saw the costume again. I guess girls really do mature faster than boys. They are maturing faster than #4's brother, #3-11."

Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
She arrived in Wisconsin on a small private jet with her flockmates on June 28, 2011. She paid attention in flight school and was one of the early birds to get a little bit airborne. By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. But #4 (along with #2, and #6) will try to follow the trike as it gains altitude. They usually end up looping around and going in for a landing, but soon the first magical take-off will happen!

August 16: flying higher!
Photo: Doug Pellerin

September 8, 2011
Image: Geoff Tarbox
Image: Brooke Pennypacker

By August 1, none of the colts were able to take off with the trike quite yet. But #4 (along with #2 and #6) try to follow the trike as it gains altitude. They usually end up looping around and going in for a landing. These three are the best fliers.

By August 16, #4 was among the three best fliers, able to fly behind and follow the ultralight plane. On August 27, when all ten birds finally took off with the ultralight, she was one of the six who stayed airborne until the end of the flight. She remains a leader and a good influence on the others.

On August 22 she didn't take off on the pilot's first two runs, but NO one took off on the third pass until swamp monster scared them all into the air. Some couldn't catch up with the plane, but #4 did, and followed the plane all the way to a remote field. She and the other five got treats before the pilot led them on the flight back to the pen. Yay, #4!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #4-11: "Caleb and I agree that 4-11 is probably our most shy bird. I don't see her interact much with the other birds or the costume. But unlike some of our other birds, she doesn't get hostile when company approaches her. She just tries to slip off somewhere else. She's often one of the last birds to come into the pen after training because she doesn't like approaching the costume (unless it has a grape to offer her, and then it's her new best friend).

"Another thing I’ve noted is thaty 4-11 seems to apply herself sporadically. When the birds started flying, she was one of the birds who would take off with the trike. Then from the middle of July to early August, she'd casually watch the ultralight fly above her, wondering why on earth it keeps making that racket over her head. Now she's back to being one of our better fliers again. But after re-reading some of my earlier entries on 4-11, it seems this isn't anything new. Apparently, she did the same thing when we were first teaching her how to eat and drink. One day, she'd drink from her water jugs like a champ, and then the next day, look at her water jugs like we were asking her to drink her own pee. It's nice to see some things don't change. It gives you a sense of security, doesn't it?"



First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:

Crane #4-11 successfully flew to Stopover #1 on day 2 of the migration, Oct. 10. She was the only one of the seven cranes who did what the pilots hoped all seven would do on the second day of trying. She was one of only four to fly the distance on the flight to Stopover #2. Again, she was one of only three birds to fly the distance to Stopover #3. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #4-11 below.

Crane #4 gets her deworming medicine inside a grape, since she wont' touch a smelt with a 10-foot pole. (Cranes usually love to eat smelt, a tasty small fish, in which the team puts de-worming medicine so the cranes will get their meds.)

Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #4 was one of only four birds that flew instead of being crated and driven to today's Stopover.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Again the great Crane #4 flew the distance. She had an unexpected landing when Richard landed with his five birds rather than risk losing #6 as it spooked and staring dropping out. Trackers came to the scene and crated #6 for the drive. But after a rest, Richard and cranes 1, 4, 9 and 10 took off and finished the flight! They flew the remaining 20 miles in a headwind, which took almost an hour.

Oct. 29, Day 21: A GREAT day! Crane #4—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.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #4 blasted out of the pen and flew one hour and 17 minutes with Richard's plane to Piatt County, IL.

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 February 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 #4-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North:
The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. "It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this," said Operation Migration's Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. Readings for #4-11 indicate a 17 April roost location in Grant County, Wisconsin." This location was 34 miles southeast on the Wisconsin River. and she then corrected her course to fly due east to southern Columbia County, Wisconsin— a short distance south of White River and very near to the third migration stopover used on her journey south with the ulrarlight planes. Hooray!!!

Whooping cranes 4, 3, and 6-11 are traveling together, as the WCEP tracking team detected radio signals from all three at the same location. It was later learned that crane #5 was also with this group. The group with #3, #4, #5, and #6 arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 (photo below) they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration's aircraft last summer. On June 19 and 29, crane #4-11 was REALLY home, roosting on White River Marsh about a mile from the pen site where she fledged last summer, according to Heather Ray at Operation Migration's headquarters. (They could not determine if the group of four is still together.)

Cranes 3,4,5, and 6-11 after completing their first spring migration back to Wisconsin

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #3, #5 and #6 from her 2011 cohort. The photo below was taken in early April when she was with the two adult Whooping cranes whose usual territory is Adams County, but none of her classmates were around. "She looks awesome,” said Doug, who is part of the Operation Migration ground crew each summer and fall.

Crane #4-11 in Adams County, Wisconsin in early April, 2013.

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: Crane #4-11, 3-11, 17-11, 19-11, pair #26-09 & 27-06 and DAR 38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird. ID on this last bird is still pending, however tracker Eva believes that it might be #26-10. After migration, crane #4-11 took a new mate: #29-09.

Fall 2014: Migrated south to Greene County, Indiana, where she as seen in December with cranes #29-09, #12-02 and his youngster W3-14, and #19-10 DAR. This group left left Greene County, Indiana, and moved south to Lawrence County, Alabama, the first week in January. This group returned to Greene County, Indiana on February 7, 2015, where they remain.

Spring 2015: Crane #4-11 had returned to Wood County, Wisconsin by March 26. She was reported on an active nest with male #12-02 in early May, but they had no nesting success this spring.

Fall 2015: Female #4-11 and her mate #12-02 were confirmed in Green County, Indiana by November 12 after migrating sometime within the two previous weeks.

Spring 2016: Female #4-11 and mate #12-02 were observed on their Wisconsin territory by March 30. They nested and were first seen with their little chick, W3-16, on May 3. The chick was still alive as of June 1 but in sad news, its father, male #12-02, was found dead a few days later with no sign of injury or predation. This left #4-11 to raise the chick on her own, which she did until mid-July when the chick was predated. . Mom 4-11 remained in Juneau County, WI, associating with another male.

Fall 2016: Female #4-11 migrated south from Juneau County in mid-December. She was on her wintering grounds in Greene Co, IN a week later. Tragically, this valuable female—now in her reproductive years—was shot and killed at her winter location in southwest Indiana in early January 2017.  Anyone having any information about the poaching is asked to please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536. Every effort is being made to bring the criminal to justice. Indiana Conservation Officers are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate this crime. If you have information about this case please contact the Indiana Conservation Officer Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

Last updated: 1/19/17

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