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

Crane #9-11

Date Hatched

May 11, 2011



Egg Source

Eastern Flock (egg from #415 and 505)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
(VHF radio transmitter)

Temporary/migration band: brown

  • 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
On the day she was born, Chick #9-11 seemed fairly mature to Geoff, and not awkward at all. She was responsive and had no trouble eating out the bowl. When she was moved to her own pen and to Geoff's care, Geoff said she seemed to make less progress than the younger 8-11 or 10-11. Even though she ate on her own in the ICU, a couple hours later she had no idea what a food bowl was. "But that’s okay," said Geoff. "Even when eating on her own, she kept tossing out all the dark-colored crumbles. Picky! And to think I gave 7-11 a hard time for being a pickier eater than my sister!"

The costumed helpers often had to go in her pen to feed her, even when #9 was a week old. The same was true with 8-11, but he became self-reliant sooner than #9 did. "On the bright side," said Geoff, "9-11 has adapted to her new life in her pen and now no longer needs us to keep her fed. She is a bird that doesn’t like too much change. However, as long as she has something familiar to hang onto, she seems to be okay." She was timid around the trike engine, and a little hesitant going outside the first time. But once she got back in her pen, she was happy again."

Treats on August 1

Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
She arrived in Wisconsin with her other Class of 2011 cohort on June 28, ready for flight school. She was a good follower on the ground. During July she got airborne a little, and learned to flap for short distances. But by August, 1 none of the birds were really flying. By mid August, she was still one of 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 lifted into the air. They'd rather "chill" at the end of the runway than take off and follow!

Crane #9 isn't too interested in the wild blue yonder, or in leaving the runway even after she takes off. Geoff said, "We saw her flying once or twice in mid-July," wrote Geoff, but she became a stick-in-the-mud in August. She may fly one day but not the next. What would get her excited about following the ultralight? The team kept trying. On August 22, none of the birds would leave the runway on the third pilot attempt, so swamp monster was deployed to scare them into the air. Then all of them left the runway with the trike but could not catch up completely. Crane #9-11 returned to the runway. However, by September she was flying and following a little better.

September 8, 2011
Image: Geoff Tarbox

October 5, 2011
Image: Tom Schultz

Crane #9 also shows particular interest in sticks and roots. "Twice we watched her dismantle the water depth gauge in the wetpen. And she often will toss sticks into the air when she finds one by probing under water. She's very protective of her sticks and roots!" reports Heather, who takes turns "driving" the crane cam.

A week before migration, Caleb noted that "9-11 would be described best as testy. Of all the birds, she is the only colt to have stomped at me on multiple occasions. Approaching this girl from behind or flank is a guaranteed method to set her off; actually, even advancing from the front has aggravated her before. She definitely has a larger ‘personal space’ than any of the other birds and if you breach the perimeter she lets you know rasping, flapping and stomping at you until you back off."

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #9: "A grouchy little bird. I don't think she likes the other birds too much, and I know she doesn't like the costume very much. Every time we go near her, she starts threat posturing and buffeting us away from her with her wings. I've never seen a chick as young as her stand up straight, point her head down and stamp her feet at me. She was doing this to me and Caleb as early as July. I've seen birds like #6 wing buffet us, but the only other bird who actually threat postures us is #1 (of course). She doesn't growl at us yet, but I think she will once her voice starts to change. Normally, she only does this if you try to get close to her. But Brooke claims she's gone up to the trike and challenged him on a couple of occasions.

"I think she'd rather be left alone to do her own thing. When the other birds come into the pen, usually most of the birds drop what they're doing to see what the costume is doing in their 'home.' Crane #9 is almost never one of them; she usually stays in the wet pen doing her own thing. I don't see her get into confrontations much. But since she's so removed, I guess the other birds don't see any point in bothering her."


First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:

Crane #9-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, she (plus all 5 of the males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven to stopover #1 after they again failed to fly on Day 3. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #9-11 below.

They were stalled by weather at this stop until Day 14.

Oct. 22, Day 14: After being stalled several days by un-flyable weather at Stopover #1, Crane #9 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn't fly and follow the ultralight.

Day 20, Oct. 28, 2011: Crane #9 flew the distance despite challenging events today. She had an unexpected landing when Richard landed with his five birds rather than risk losing #6 as it spooked and staring dropping out. After a rest (when #6 was crated and driven away), 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.

Day 21, Oct. 29, 2011: A GREAT day! Crane #9—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 #9 blasted out of the pen and flew the 59 miles 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 #9-11!

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. A report from a citizen scientist observer on April 20 placed #9-11 in Grant County, Wisconsin, along the Wisconsin River. PTT reports for #9-11 have been few and far between but a report came in via the website for public reporting, with the following image, taken by Linda Halpin. The image confirms that this is indeed number 9-11. The photograph was taken April 20th in Grant County, WI. She wandered (typical behavior in juveniles) and was even seen northeast of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sad news came when the carcass of female #9-11 was discovered in Polk County, Wisconsin, on July 6. It was near a road and some power lines.

Crane #9-11 in Grant County, WI in April, with broken antenna on her tracking transmitter
Image: Linda Halpin



Last updated: 7/24/12


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