Meet the Class of 2013 Whooping Cranes
Hatch-year 2013 of the Eastern Flock

Back to Meet the Cranes 2013

Crane chick #1-13
Image: Operation Migration

Crane #1-13
Date Hatched May 14, 2013
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training: Crane chick #1-13 is the oldest, biggest, and most dominant bird in the Class of 2013. Right away, Joe called her their "Make My Day" bird for her attitude. She hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-05 and #13-03, who learned their migration route from the ultralight plane just as she will do. Her sibling is Chick #4, who hatched from the same parents' other rescued egg.

Crane #1 remained the Alpha lady of the group both in Maryland and after the Class of 2013 arrived in Wisconsin.

By mid July, she and and# 2-13 were already able to skip a few steps as they followed the trike and very soon #1-13 was first to fly a good distance of the runway.  It won’t be long before #2-13 is following after her.  Give them a week or two, and they’ll all be catching ground effect off the wing.

By July 26 #1 had just learned to fly. She promptly flew off into the marsh behind the pen and stayed there! Meanwhile, the others had a good training session with the trike and went obediently back into the pen. Then the pilots coaxed #1 out of the marsh and led her to the trike for some treats and trike time. She followed the trike downwind to the north end of the runway but on the return trip she flew up above the wing and then veered right and flew back into the marsh behind the pen. Again she was easily led out and  back to the trike and given treats at the trike. After some trike time she obediently followed back into the pen.

On July 29, #1 spent most of her time in the field. She poked around for tasty insects while pilot Brooke continued training the other seven chicks. After Brooke made a couple more runs with all of them flapping and following behind him, #1-13 finally decided to join the party. She came flying out of the field and flew the length of the runway, showing off her new-found flight abilities. She might have been bragging to the others: "THIS is how it's done!"

By July 31 most of the birds were following the trike up and down the runway. But #1-13 doesn’t always like running with the pack. She can easily go 40 feet in the air and fly the length of the runway. She likes to go exploring.  Sometimes, she’ll meet up with the trike on her own. Other days, she needs a little one-on-one help escaping the marshy wilderness.  The pilots hope that she will learn to lock onto the "sweet spot" on the wing and then enjoy flying with the group. With a 5-day age spread among this year’s cohort, all were flying by August 7. Pilots hope all will fall into a line, including #1!

#1 at one month of age
One Month Old
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #1 on July 9, arrival day in Wisconsin
Welcome to Wisconsin!
Image: Doug Pellerin
Crane #1 in early August, with #4-12 and #5-12
Image: Doug Pellerin
Crane #! shows more white feathers than her classmates.
Lots of White!
Image: Doug Pellerin

Fall 2013: Ultralight-Guided Migration South


Migration begins!
October 2, 2013: Migration Day 1! Clear skies, zero fog and light north winds brought perfect flight conditions. Crane #1 landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and cranes 7, 8 and 9, but the other four had to be crated to finish the trip by road.

October 14, 2013: Migration Day 13! After 11 down days and an attempted flight Oct. 9, they finally got a great day to fly! All eight cranes came out of the pen, took off and covered the distance with lead pilot Brooke. Two flew off his left wing and six off his right: perfect, and a wonderful surprise!

October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard van Heuvelen for the entire 28 miles. The flight to Columbia County, WI lasted 42 minutes.

Pilot Brooke leads all eight to stopover #2!

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #1 was one of just two cranes to fly the 39 miles on today's turbulent flight to Green County, Wisconsin! The six others dropped out in three locations, causing a flurry of worry and activity — but, at the end of the day, all eight birds as well as the crew were safely at Stopover #4.

Crane #1-13 flew the distance with the aircraft on today's flight to Green County, WI.
Image: Heather Ray
October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois! All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard's wing the whole way!

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 About one mile from take-off, crane #1 dropped back from the group of eight that took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County, Illinois. As she dropped back, chase-plane pilot Richard van Heuvelen swooped in and escorted her the rest of the flight. She had the sweet spot off his wing all to herself!

November 7, 2013: Migration Day 37 Flying 1 hour and 15 minutes, all eight cranes followed Richard for the entire 55-mile flight to Livingston County, Illinois.

November 8, 2013: Migration Day 38 Another 59 miles gained! They're in Piatt County, Illinois.

Crane #1 has Richard's wing all to herself on Nov. 3 flight.
Image: Mark Blasage

November 13, 2013: Migration Day 43 Onward to Cumberland County, Illinois. Pilot Richard reported: "We reached 3,500 feet above sea level with a ground speed about 31 mph. By the time we touched down we’d been in the air just over two hours. A long time up there to cover 56 air miles."

November 18, 2013: Migration Day 48 Pilot Brooke led them right over the Wayne County, Illinois stopover—and onward to Kentucky! Flying up to 50 mph, today's flight added 108 miles!

Eight cranes and aircraft on Nov. 13
Image: Veronica Anderton
November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 November 19, 2013: Migration Day 49 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116. That brings the total to 569.
November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Today the birds were in two groups with two pilots but all 7 fliers and one crated dropout bird ended up safely at the new stopover with 67 more miles gained. Their reward was a lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree temperatures for bathing and splashing after the flight. Total miles now: 636. Last stop in Tennessee! Seven craes bathing after flight to Hardin County, TN.

December 12, 2013: Migration Day 72 Finally some progress! Winds foiled yesterday's attempted to advance the migration, and they turned back; but today all eight took off with Richard and Joe! Cranes #4 and #3 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! Crane #1 and the others dropped out and had to be found and crated to the new location. Too many days penned in Hardin County!

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today's attempted flight (the second this week) brought over an hour of wrangling before they gave up and turned back to the Winston County, AL site at 703 total miles gone. The birds didn't want to stay with the trikes in headwinds. "They understand that it is wiser to save your energy for days when the wind helps instead of hinders. And maybe that morning was a lesson the students taught the teachers," wrote pilot Joe Duff.

Attempted takeoff Dec. 14

December 18, 2013: Migration Day 78 The only champion fliers of the day were Cranes #1, #3, #4, and #9, who flew all 101 miles with Richard's plane to Chilton County, AL. That's 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 All eight cranes completed today's double-leg flight, covering 110 miles to the final stop in Alabama. They're now at 906 miles gone.

Richard's takeoff with 7 of the 8 cranes on 12/18/13.

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. As they climbed, ground speeds improved so much that at 3500 feet the pilots decided to skip for Decatur County. Florida is next!

December 31, 2013: Migration Day 91 A perfect flight with all eight birds brought them to Leon County, FLORIDA, with just 28 miles to the finish line. Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014: Migration Day 96 After a 96-day journey when they gained miles on just 18 of those days, the Class of 2013 landed Sunday, Jan. 5, at St. Marks NWR in Florida. All eight Whooping cranes will spend their first days in the temporarily top-netted section of the large winter release pen. Then they will be banded and released to live as wild, free cranes. A team member will watch over their first winter to be sure they are okay, and probably crane pals #4-12 and #5-12 will watch too. (See photo at right, where the two adult cranes stand guard upon the young cranes' Florida arrival, just as they did upon their Wisconsin arrival last June!) Class of 2013 in St. Marks pen upon arrival
January 16, 2014: Health checks and banding with permanent band colors went very smoothly. Handlers put a hood over the crane's head so the workers wouldn't be hampered by wearing their helmets to cover their faces. Hooded crane undergoes health check and bandin
January 21, 2014: Freedom! No more top net! With the top net gone, the chicks can come and go at will from the safety of their enclosure, learning to live wild and free. Surprisingly, they have allowed sub-adult cranes #4-12 and #5-12 to stay with them in the pen, as long as the older birds let the younger ones be boss. They even let the older two roost at night with them on the oyster bar (a raised area in built from a pile of oyster shells in the pen's pond)! Last winter this pen was home to #4-12 and #5-12 as newly arrived migrants, and they must like being there... Crane #4-13 chases sub-adult #4-12 in the pen to show dominance.

Spring 2014: First Unaided Spring Migration North
March 31: All eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge this morning with a tailwind to push them along. Data gathered from the four cranes wearing PTT tracking units tells us they made at least one stop in Barbour County, Alabama and spent a couple of days there. By April 3, signals of the four PTT'd birds showed they had covered about 470 miles, reaching Daviess County, Kentucky.

Sad news came on April 14. When #1-13's PTT data remained at the Kentucky location for three days past the time when the other birds had departed. Operation Migration's Heather Ray discovered that a powerline cuts through the property and asked the landowners to search for #1-13. They found a pile of crane feathers beneath the powerline, and the scavenged carcass of #1-13 was a short distance away. It is a tragic loss of a majestic bird to the number one danger of migration: power lines. "We can take some solace in the fact that she did experience freedom," noted Heather sadly. And Brooke, who knew her better than anyone, wrote that from her first days of life to the last, "She remained throughout the smartest and most able member of the group." 


Last Updated: April 18, 2014