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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2013

Image: Operation Migration

Crane #4-13
Date Hatched May 16, 2013
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training: Crane chick #4-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-05 and #13-03, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. His sibling is Chick #1, who hatched from the same parents' other rescued egg.

Socializing the birds is an important first step. 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 #4 continued good progress in "Ground School" in Maryland, learning to walk along and follow. He wasn't afraid of the trike (aircraft), as he had heard the sound of its engine even when he was in his eggshell before hatching.

On July 9 the Class of 2013 arrived in Wisconsin for "Flight School" and #4 was ready! They practiced with the aircraft every day that weather was good. Crane #4 hopped, flapped, and skipped along with the others as the little aircraft drove down and back along the runway. Then it picked up speed. The birds were able to catch wind from the plane's wing under their own wings and rise off the ground in their first flight attempts.

By July 31 most of the birds were following the trike up and down the runway and the oldest three were good flyers. 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.




Crane chick #4 at Patuxent WRC where he hatched
One Month Old
Image: Operation Migration
Brooke leads the little  chicks on a walk.
Walking Together
Image: Operation Migration
Crane #4 on July 28, 2013, almost ready to fly.
Getting Ready
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 and four cranes (not including Crane #4) 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 #4, who was once the group's ace flier until he got the bad habit of losing interest and turning back during practice, was back in the game.

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 #4 was one of just two cranes to fly the 39 miles on today's flight to Green County, Wisconsin! "The six others dropped out in three locations, causing a flurry of worry and activitHe sticks to the plane like Velcro," said crew member Heather Ray. The other six dropouts were found, crated and driven. At the end of the day, all eight birds and the crew were safely at Stopover #4. Crane #4-13 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! Winds kept them grounded here for the next nine days.


View from aircraft camera filming during  Oct. 25 flight

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #4 and six others stayed with Brooke's aircraft for the entire 2-hour flight

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
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 Hoo-wee! They got another double-leg flight today with good tailwinds and made it to Tennessee! Miles gained today: 63 + 53 + 116
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! The others dropped out and had to be found and crated.

December 13, 2013: Migration Day 73 Today's attempted flight to the next county ended in another turnback, the second this week. They are back at the Winston County, AL site at 73 total miles gone.

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 #4, #3, #1, 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.
February 26, 2014: Male #4-13 shows his moves to the costume during one of the pen checks this winter. He is now nine months old and nearly to his adult height of five feet. Crane #4-13 has grown!
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. 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.
Six of the Class of 2013 flying over S. Wisconsin on April
Image: Scott Weberpal

The 6 birds (cranes #2-13, 4-13, 5-13, 7-13, 8-13 and 9-13) continued migration when the weather finally allowed them to leave. The group apparently spent two days in McHenry County, Illinois. On April 12 they made a short hop into Wisconsin’s Walworth County, where a spring snow storm and winds kept them grounded for another 5 days. April 18 PTT data placed #2-13 approximately 10 miles north of Berlin, WI — likely to roost— and on April 19, the six young cranes (#2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9) arrived right back on their training strip at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, migration complete!

The roost locations used by the cranes wearing PTT devices shows that, while they didn’t follow the exact migration route used by the aircraft that led them south last fall, they surely were close for the entire way. Hooray!

The group of six stayed together in Green Lake County, WI for several days. Then #7-13 and #8-13 broke off on their own, spending time in Dodge County, WI., leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. This little group wandered in nearby counties during the summer, in typical behavior for yearling subadults and were in Fond du Lac County in July.

Cranes 2, 4, 5 and 9 in Green Lake County WI in April
Image: Doug Pellerin
Fall 2014: Cranes #2-13, 4-13, 5-13, 7-13 and 8-13 began migration from Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on 13 November. Satellite readings indicted roost locations in Iroquois County, Indiana, on 13 November; Wabash County, Illinois, on 14 November; northern Alabama on 17 November and Decatur County, Georgia, on 18 November where they remained until arriving at the St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, Florida on November 21 for the winter. By mid January, cranes #2, #5, and #7 had all died, and #4-13 started to hang out with this year’s (Class of 2014) chicks and crane #4-12 at the pen site. He was still there as of March 4, 2015.

Spring 2015: Crane #4-13 was photographed preening his feathers in Florida in March before spring migration. He departed from St. Marks NWR on March 11 with pal #4-12 and young female #7-14 from the Class of 2014! The three cranes were tracked the next day to a cornfield in Decatur County, Georgia—on their way! It's uncertain if he remained with the other two all the way, but he was seen with #7-14 (who was back in Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 28) during a tracking flight on March 31 —so he made it back home, too! HOORAY!

He and young #7-14 had been visiting various wetlands in central Wisconsin since their late March return. He was still with juvenile #7-14, in mid May when he was photographed on Horicon NWR (photo, right).

Crane #4-13 preening before spring migration
Image: Beverly Paulan

Fall 2015: Crane #4-13 migrated successfully to St. Marks NWR in Florida, and guided female subadult #7-14 on the southward migration so she now knows the entire route. Well done!

Spring 2016: Crane #4-13, still with #7-14, departed St. Marks NWR March 22 and arrived home in Marquette County, Wisconsin on March 28. They later moved to White River Marsh (the training marsh for their first migration south with aircraft leaders) in Green Lake County, WI. In June the pair moved back to their Marquette County territory.

#4-13 and #7-14
Image: Tom Schultz, 2016

Fall 2016: In September, two of the 2016 Parent Reared (PR) whooper chicks were released near adults #4-13 and #7-14 in hopes this pair would adopt the youngsters before fall migration. Things looked promising, at least until September 30 when #4-13 drove off male #5-12 and stole his mate (#8-14). It was a surprise to everyone after the interest and care shown to the two PR colts by male #4-13 and his previous mate 7-14, but this behavior indicated that something had happened to female #7-14 even though no carcass had yet been found.

In November, male #4-13 was still with his new mate, female #8-14, in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

On Nov. 6, young PR30-16 joined#4-13 and #8-14 to say hello and take a flight with them, but later went back to roost with his alloparents, the other resident pair in White River Marsh.

The new pair was still in Green Lake County, WI on Nov. 18.

On November 25, new pair #4-13 and female #8-14 were confirmed on the wintering grounds at St. Marks NWR in Florida! Along with them, single males #5-12 and 4-14 (Peanut) are spending time in and around the winter release pen on the refuge in Wakulla County, FL.

Male 4-13 with new mate 8-14 in October 2016
#4-13 and new mate #8-14
Image: Operation Migration
New pair #4-13 an #8-14 in flight during a visit from PR30-16
PR30-16 says "Hello"
Doug Pellerin


Spring 2017: Began northward migration on March 6 from St. Marks NWR. His newest mate #8-14 was found dead March 26 at one of their first migration stops, and male #4-13 was back at White River Marsh in Wisconsin by April 1. This was the second mate he has lost.

Soon #4-13 was with another new female, after successfully wooing #10-15 from her mate #11-15.


Last Updated: 4/13/17