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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2013

Whooping crane chick #5
Image: Operation Migration

Crane #5-13
Date Hatched May 16, 2013
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training:

Crane chick #5-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #9-03 and #3-04, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. Like all the Class of 2013, he hatched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. His sibling is Chick #2-13, who hatched from the same pair's other rescued egg.

The most remarkable thing about #5 during his early life was his attachment to "daddy"/trainer/pilot Brooke (see caption story).

Socializing the birds is the first step at Patuxent WRC. By June 3, chicks 2-13 through 5-13 were all getting walked together without any trouble at all.  These chicks seem like the best of buds!

Everyone soon knew their place in the pecking order: Everyone was beneath #1-13!

On July 9 the Class of 2013 was transported to Wisconsin for #Flight School." Chick #5 was a willing student and obediently followed the aircraft. He wasn't spooked at all when the wing was added to the familiar tiny yellow flying machine.

By July 31 chick #5 was close to being able to take off and fly, while chicks #3, #2 and #1 were already flying. The chicks are all close in age, so everyone will be flying in early August. Sure enough, 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.

#5 at Patuxent WRC
He Wants Brooke
Image: Operation Migration
#5 at one month of age
One Month Old
Image: Operation MIgration
#5 on arrival day in Wisconsin
Welcome to Wisconsin
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #5 will be flying in a few weeks!
Getting Ready to Fly
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 but Crane #5 was a mischief maker. After a couple minutes of flight, #5 and four of the other cranes turned back and landed at the pen. Pilot Brooke told Richard to carry on to the first stopover with the four flying birds as Brooke zoomed in for another try. No matter where Brooke led them to, #5 not only decided to turn back but he also convinced the other four to join him. Then Brook even put #5-13 in the pen and tried taking off with just the three. Finally, cranes #5, 4, 3 and 2 were crated and driven to Stopover #1 to join the flying four. Will #5 do better next time?

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 #5, who always turned back as soon as he was out of his comfort zone, flew like an ace! Go #5!

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 #5 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! 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
Image: Oct. 25 PlaceCam

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #5 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! Crane #5 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 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. Crane #5 was the first dropout, but none of the birds wanted 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 Crane #5 again lagged in the pen and missed the takeoff. He joined up with one of Brooke's many passes over the pen but he and #2-13, #7-13 and #8-13 had to eventually be crated and driven not one,but TWO stopvers to join today's champion fliers 101 miles distant at Chilton County, AL. 804 miles gone!

December 26, 2013: Migration Day 86 Crane #5 dawdled in the pen while the other seven blasted out to follow the aircraft, but he soon caught up when frighteded by Swamp Monster! 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.

Four reluctanat fliers with Brooke on 12/18/13

December 30, 2013: Migration Day 90 All of the birds turned back when Richard started to climb, but they were rounded up for another try. The THIRD double-leg flight in a row brought them 124 miles across Georgia in one day. They're in Decatur County and will cross into Florida 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. Crane #5 wearing his new leg bands!
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. 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!

Crane's #2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 at White River Marsh, WI on April 19, completing their first northward migration.Image: Lois Ballard
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 #5-13, 4-13, 2-13, 7-13 and 8-13 were sghted in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin on Oct. 22. They successfully completed their first unassisted migration south to Florida's St. Marks NWR. Then, #5-13 disappeared on or near the refuge on Thanksgiving night. He wa suspected dead. Efforts to locate him ended when OM pilot Brooke found his remains January 1st, 2015, on St. Marks NWR.

Last Updated: 1/6 /2015