Meet the Class of 2012 Whooping Cranes
Hatch-year 2012 of the Eastern Flock

Back to Meet the Cranes 2012

Baby crane #10=12
Photo: Operation Migration
Crane #10-12
Date Hatched May 7, 2012
Gender Female
Personality and Training: She is our youngest bird, but only nine days behind the oldest. She is not the smallest of her flock mates, nor is she the least aggressive. At first the team worried that #10-12 had an eye problem, or that she was a slacker. When she was still in the ICU, she ignored the puppet, or else tapped it enough to make it go away. Left alone, she didn't eat or drink much without being encouraged. Her lazy ways changed only a little after she arrived in Wisconsin for flight school. Scared of the gate, she stayed by the "costume" and was late getting out of the pen to chase after the ultralight trike. Sometimes she wouldn't come out of the pen for training at all unless the costume bribed her with treats and coaxed her out. On her good days, she ran to catch up and follow, so that gave hope. By July 15 all the birds could flap and run behind the ultralight. By end of of July they could get airborne, and—suddenly—#10 began charging out of the gate with zeal. She's on her way!

Aug. 6: Crane #10 is proving to be a champion! Today she outflew her other five classmates and thrilled pilot Richard with her eagerness to keep flying. She stayed airborne even after the cohort's third good fight of the morning and kept trying to follow Richard, who wanted to land his plane and call it a GREAT day.

Two weeks later, best flier #10 surprised the team today when she suddenly and unexpectedly dropped out of the formation and landed in the marsh while the others followed happily and landed unfazed on the runway after a 40 minute flight. The trike tried to pick her up again, but she was too tired to stay airborne. Trackers rescued her in the van, and she was fine after a rest back in the pen.

September 10: All six flew strongly in a 40-minute flight with the ultralight! Pilot Brooke says she "surfs the wing like it was her own personal surf board."

Crane #10 has become a great flier!
Comparing plumage of cranes 4 and 10 in September

Images: Operation MigrationComparing Plumage: #4 and #10.

Fall 2012:

Day 1, September 28: Migration begins! All six young cranes in the Class of 2012 successfully flew all 19 miles on the first day of their journey south! They passed right over Stop #1 and flew onward to Stop #2 (Marquette County, WI). Hooray!

Day 4, October 1: Onwarto Stop #4, Columbia County, Wisconsin. All six birds stayed on Brooke's wing the whole way, despite headwinds. With new stuff to poke and prod, they dawdled along through the cornfield and it took Brooke and Richard 20 minutes to coax them into the pen.

Day 5, October 2: Another fly-day, and #10 performed superbly, as usual. Green County is the final stop in Wisconsin. Go cranes!

Crane #10 flying in lead position! Image: Operation Migration

Crane #10 flies in lead position

Day 29, October 26: This was the day the birds and pilots had been awaiting for 13 days stuck on the ground at Stopover #6 in LaSalle County, Illinois. Finally they had the right weather and the bonus of tailwinds that enabled them to skip a stop. All six birds took off but the long flight had a sad ending for #10, who broke her leg upon landing. She was rushed to The University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic and Veterinary School for surgery. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she died on the operating table. The team was heartbroken. (For more details, see Joe Duff's field journal entry #2 for October 28, 2012.)

Pilot Joe Duff said The break was consistent with a hard landing, so maybe that's what happened. Migration ground crew member Julia Anthony, who has known #10 since the chick's early days at Maryland's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, wrote:

"When I was first introduced to the chicks, #10 kept to herself in the wet pen. One of our tasks is to visually inspect each chick every time we enter the pen. I had to make an effort to seek out her in the wet pen to check on her. Usually she would shy away from the costumes, and I remember being so excited when she finally took a grape from me.

"Later #10 developed into the best flyer of the group... When the chicks did their first air pick up (meaning that the trike did not land and then take off again with the chicks, but instead just flew by picking up the birds on the run) it was #10 that lead the charge out of the pen, and who fearlessly took off after the trike.

"One misstep ends one bird’s life and the Eastern flock gets one less crane. One less potential mate and parent crane now exists.

"We now have 5 chicks in the Class of 2012. We also have thousands of broken hearts; mine being one of them."

Rest in peace, brave #10-12.

Last updated: 10/27/12