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

Crane #7-11

Date Hatched

May 9, 2011



Egg Source

Eastern Flock (rescued egg from nest of #716 & 216)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
(VHF radio transmitter)

Temporary migration band: orange

  • 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
Geoff calls #7-11 "my greatest success story so far this year." Why? "Every family has a kid who won’t eat. I should know; in my family it was my sister. Well, #7-11 is that kid in the 2011 family. Every time we went to feed her, after half an hour in the pen with her, she still wouldn’t even look at the bowl. She kept acting as though we were trying to get her to eat out of the toilet! But one day I tried feeding her from outside by tapping his puppet, just to see what she would do. After all, she couldn’t do any worse. Imagine my surprise when I saw her bury her head in that bowl and scarf down the food like she was in a pie-eating contest. From that point on, we had to make sure she didn’t gorge herself or choke as she did a perfect impersonation of a steam shovel. I guess she just wanted to be treated like an adult!

After July 11 training session

Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin
She arrived in Wisconsin on June 28 with her Class of 2011 flockmates. Her job was learning to follow the trike down the grass training strip, but being a kid, she was easily distracted by things like a marsh begging to be explored. Geoff said the chicks will look for something better to do than follow a noisy trike. Most of the runway is fenced, but not all, and the chicks will find places where they can wander off. One July day, #7 wandered off and spent most of the training stuck behind the wrong side of the fence. "Thankfully, getting her back was just a simple matter of lowering the fence and luring her over it when it was time to bring her home," said Geoff. "By then, she was definitely more interested in paying attention to the friendly white blobby things (us in our costumes) and followed Brooke into the pen with no hesitation."
August 27 training session

She learned to follow the trike as it taxied on the ground, and was flapping and rising off the ground a bit in July. But by August, 1 none of them were really flying. By mid August, she was still in the group of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike took off to the air. They'd rather "chill" at the end of the runway than take off and follow! The team hoped she'll get excited about flying soon, and she did! She had a great day on August 21, when she lifted off to join 3 other youngsters flying past with Richard 's trike in the lead. She stayed with the group to a good landing! By the end of August, all the birds finally left the runway with the ultralight, but half of them turned back. NOT Crane #7! She was one of the group that stayed with the airplane. Go, #7, ace flier!

September 8, 2011
Image: Geoff Tarbox

Image: Brooke Pennypacker
October 5, 2011
Image: Doug Pellerin

On August 30, female #7 showed Bully #1 that he wasn't so scary after all. He bothered #7 while she was resting and she chased him off three times. He was fast to get out of her way for the rest of the day!

Female #7 was always one of five birds (#2, #6, #7, #11, and #12) the pilots could count on to follow the trike. Even when some of them slacked off, #7 was a good follower.

On Sep. 20, nine cranes took off and flew about 10 minutes with the ultralight — but eager cranes #7 and #5 flew another ten minutes longer. Crane 7 is one of the two best fliers in this group!

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #7: "I would say she is like what'd you get if #1 and #2 had a kid. Like her theoretical daddy, she's definitely an assertive individual to the other birds when I'm in the pen. I've seen her push around birds like #12, #5 and #6. Watching the CraneCam, Heather tells me she has several times seen #7 challenge the dominant #1! Like #2, she's one of the best fliers in our flock. She wasn't one of the first birds to latch onto the trike. But now that she's latched on, she hasn't let go. There have been days when she took over #2's coveted spot as lead flier (some would say she still is the lead flier).

"What makes her even more endearing is that she's usually fairly happy to see the costume drop by to say hi. Whereas #5 and #10 come in from the right, I can see #7 approach me from my left. I know we say we don't typically name the birds. But in light of her superb flying abilities, bold personality, and the fact she's got an orange band, I can't help but call her Bev. And on that note, I think I found my favorite bird."


First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:

Crane #7-11 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 with Brook's ultralight, and one of only three to go the 5-mile distance to the first stopover on Day 1, despite bumpy air. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #7-11 below.

Oct. 22, Day 14: After being stalled several days by un-flyable weather at Stopover #1, Crane #7 was one of only four birds that flew to Stopover #2 with the ultralight. The others were crated and driven

Oct. 28, Day 20: A mile after takeoff, #7 peeled away from Brooke's ultralight and headed home. Joe and his ultralight moved in to pick her up, and she landed with Joe at the final stopover in the state of Wisconsin.

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #7—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 a big flock of wild Sandhills.)

Nov. 16, Day 39: Today is the 12th day stuck in Livingson County, IL. Crane #7 is getting really cranky with the long delay. She has nearly dragged Caleb into the mud when he entered the pen in recent days. The cranes are crabbier each day of the muddy monotony.

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #7 blasted out of the pen and ended up flying the sweet spot all by herself with Joe 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 #7-11!

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. Then they split into at least two groups. Readings for #7-11 indicate an April 17 roost location in Houston County, Minnesota! Then she corrected her course to move her further east. On April 20, #7-11 was in eastern Marquette County, Wisconsin, which puts her very close to the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area where she started. PTT data show she spent the April 21 weekend a bit further north in Columbia County, approximately 27 miles south of White River Marsh. Trackers discovered on April 25 that she is traveling with Class of 2011 flock mates #10 and #12. In early June, this group was reported in neighboring Marquette County, WI, approximately 11 miles from their former pensite, and right on the migration route between the first and second stopovers made on their aircraft-led journey south.

Fall 2012: Crane 7-11 migrated and spent the winter in Colbert County, Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration to Wisconsin on March 29 with #10 and #12 from her 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013: She migrated south to Wheeler NWR, where she was seen in winter with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: On April 24, female #7-11 was sitting on what appeared to be a nest barely above water in the center of the woodlot in Marquette County, Wisconsin! Male 10-11 was foraging nearby. "The pair is only three years old, so if the nest survives and they fledge chicks, it will be a great sign, noted Joe Duff. The pair's nest was still active then checked on April 30 by tracker Eva Szyszkoski but on May 19 we learned that the 3-year-old pair had been spotted together away from the nest. Unfortunately, seeing both adults away from the nest indicates a nest failure. ICF's tracker Eva and Operation Migration's Caleb checked the nest and Eva noted it had been constructed almost entirely with sticks as opposed to the grasses usually used by Whoopers. She was also able to tell that the one egg they found had been viable. It’s great that the pair are producing viable eggs, but just as unfortunate that this viable egg didn’t make it. Still, there's hope for more from this young pair!

Aerial view of the first nest built at Wisconsin's White River Marsh.

Broken egg of pair 7-11 and 10-11
Images: WCEP


Fall 2014: Pair #7-11 and #10-11 moved to Dane County, WI, on 2 September from their breeding territory in Marquette County. They began migration Nov. 16 or 17 and spent winter in Lawrence County, Alabama.

Spring 2015: PTT data indicated #7-11 back in Marquette County, WI as of March 26, but apparently she and her mate (#10-11) are no longer together. She re-paired with a new male, #3-11, and nested in Adams County, Wisconsin. She was still nesting as of May 22 and on May 28 the pair was seen with new chick —and 1 egg still in the nest! On June 4 at least one chick was seen with the pair, but it did not survive.

Fall 2015: Crane #7-11 migrated with her mate (#3-11) to Indiana for the winter.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #7-11 and 3-11 returned to Adams County, Wisconsin, where they nested and hatched chick W5-16, first observed on May 12. As of July, the chick was no longer alive.  

Fall 2016: Crane pair 7-11 and #3-11 migrated in November to Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2017: Female #7-11 was captured (not easy!) before spring migration and had her transmitter replaced, making her trackable again. She and her mate #3-11 returned to their territory in Adams County, Wisconsin and were nesting by early April. They hatched chick W5-17, shown in this photo taken on May 12. In sad news, chick W5-17 died/was lost by June 8.

W5-17 on May 12, 2017
Image: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot




Last updated: 7/3/17


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