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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2013

Chick #3-13
Image: Operation Migration

Crane #3-13
Date Hatched May 15, 2013
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training:Crane chick #3-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #41-09 DAR and #32-09 DAR.

Right after hatching, chick #3-13's legs were splayed. Experts and taped tiny splints to each leg to help strengthen them. They watched him closely and he did just fine! You can see that his legs straightened and grew strong.

Socializing the birds to get along together is important. By June 3, chicks 2-13 through 5-13 were all getting walked together without any trouble at all.  The team thinks these chicks seem like the best of buds.  

Chick #3-13 at one month of ageOne Month Old
Image: Operation Migration

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for "Flight School."

For his first few weeks in Wisconsin, Chick #3 was the only one to be a little slow out of the gate for training with the aircraft. He did not seem to have the same enthusiasm as the other chicks. Often he just laid down on his hocks and watched everyone rush out the door of the pen.  If he was coaxed along, he turned back as soon as he got to the door. Was he scared of the door? Odder still, if he ever DID exit the pen for training, he laid down on the runway in the middle of training! None of the crew could remember having a bird ever lie down in the middle of training. Was he easily tired? Was he just being lazy? He had no trouble breathing, and he followed as well as any other chicks. The team never figured out the reason for #3's lagging.


Crane #3 on arrival day in Wisconsin
Welcome to Wisconsin
Image: Operation Migration

By the end of July, #3 had quit his lagging. His wings were almost ready to lift him off the ground for flight, so maybe his excitement was growing.

Crane #3 shows off his wings.Amost Ready to Fly!
Image: Doug Pellern

By July 31 chicks #3, #2 and #1 were capable of flight and enjoying time airborne. By August 7, all eight Whooping cranes in this year’s cohort were able to fly. While they hadn't completed a circuit down and back over the training field yet, they were all flying and attempting to follow the aircraft.

August and September brought gains and progress. Migration is coming!

Chick #3 in pen with #4 an #5 from the Class of 2012 watching
Who's That?
Image:Tom Schultz
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 and four cranes (not including Crane #3) flew the distance to Stopover#1. Cranes #2, 3, 4 and 5 didn't cooperate in several attempts to follow Brooke's aircraft. Finally those four had to be crated to finish the first leg of their migration by road. Will they do better on the next flight?
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! Crane #3, who made the first leg of the migration in a little wooden box, peeping and squeaking—showed he is back in the game! Pilot Brooke leads all eight to stopover #2!
October 17, 2013: Migration Day 16 Another successful flight with all eight young Whooping cranes sticking with lead pilot Richard for the entire 28 miles. Crane #3 was the only one to have a bit of trouble. At about ten miles away from the new stop, he began flying in his usual spot under the wing and would not get back up on top. No matter what Richard tried, #3 would tuck his head down and dive below the wing again. That meant loss of altitude for all of them, putting them back into the turbulent air they'd climbed slowly to rise above it. Finally, when Richard slowly began losing altitude in the last five miles before landing, #3-13 kept up better, and all the birds safely landed after the 42-minute flight to Columbia County, WI. Hooray!

October 22, 2013: Migration Day 21 Crane #3 was among the six others that dropped out and had to be captured, crated and driven to stopover #4 on today's turbulent flight.They are now all safely at the Green County, Wisconsin stopover site.

October 25, 2013: Migration Day 24 Crossing into Illinois!!! Crane #3 was in the lead for some of today's 34-mile flight. All eight cranes trailed off pilot Richard's wing the whole way! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #3 and six others stayed with Brooke's aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight. Image: Mark Blasage Photography

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.

Following Brooke's aircraft Nov. 3

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 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116. That puts the total distance to date at 569 miles.
November 29, 2013: Migration Day 59 It was finally a fly day, but #3 made it a challenging flight to Hardin County, TN. Since he dropped out on the Oct. 28 flight, he has made it a habit to fly below the wing where he must work twice as hard to keep up. Dropping down to pick him up only works for a while and down he goes again. He did that today; then, 25 miles from the destination, he dropped all the way down to treetop level. Pilot Joe needed to follow the wayward #3 from above until he landed or today's trackers, Brooke and David, would have little chance of finding him. The bird circled a pond, sailed over a forest and finally landed in an isolated field. Joe radioed the GPS coordinates to the tracking van. Meanwhile, Richard had managed to climb with his four birds to 4400 feet where he gained a fantastic ground speed of 50 mph while Joe and his birds banged along the lower altitude at 32 mph. Richard landed at the new stopover while Joe and his birds were still 18 miles out. A lovely stream one foot deep and 60-degree tempera- tures meant the seven landed birds could bathe and splash to their delight. Crane #3 had a long van ride before he safely joined the group at the pen. Total miles migrated: 636.

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 #3 and #4 were the only two who stuck with the aircraft the whole 67 miles to land in Winston County, Alabama! The others dropped out and had to be found and crated.

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 Champion fliers of the day were Cranes #3, #1, #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 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. Then crane #3 broke away from Richard and began to descend so Brooke dropped down to pick him up and escorted him the rest of the flight. 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!

The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. Some time into the flight,They're now in Decatur County and 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: After a few short flights, followed by trips to the feeders, #3 began calling a raucous pre-migratory call," said Brooke. Then all eight young cranes left the pen site at St. Marks to begin their first journey north. They had 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. Storms and headwinds kept them grounded there for a week. Sadly, this is where the remains of young female crane #1-13 were found. Since only six cranes were ever seen teogether at this stop, it is believed it was soon after arriving that something happened to number 1-13, and that the other missing crane,# 3-13, likely split off from the group before this stop. The other birds resumed migration north. When tracker Eva got a visual sighting of them on April 12, they had crossed into Wisconsin—but crane #3 still was not with the others.

On May 13 came sad news: The remains of #3-13 were located by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife in the same field where #1-13 struck a powerline and died. He likely died shortly after arriving at this location on April 2.

Last Updated: May 14, 2014