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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2013

Baby chick #7-13
Image: Operation Migration

Crane #7-13
Date Hatched May 17, 2013
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training: Crane chick #7-13 hatched from an egg rescued from the abandoned nest of parents #16-02 and #16-07, who learned the migration route from the ultralight plane just as this little chick will do. His sibling is Chick #8, who hatched from the same pair's other rescued egg.

Soon the chicks were learning to follow their costumed "parent" and the crane puppet, and going for walks outside. They started to walk in a circle pen with the tiny yellow aircraft that will lead them on migration in just five months.

#7 at one month of ageOne Month Old
Image: Operation Migration

As the chicks got old enough to go outside to Patuxent's pens with ponds, they acted scared at first.  But 7-13, followed by the others, learned to love these pens after discovering the ponds inside. The handlers loved watching 7-13 take a bath and "shoot around the pond like a torpedo."  The other birds learned to love these ponds more as they foraged around, played in the pond or slept next to "cageman"—a dummy wearing a costume to comfort the chicks when the handlers weren't there. 


Brooke leads chicks to training at Patuxent WRC in Maryland.
Ground School in Maryland
Image: Operation Migration

On July 9, the chicks were transported to Wisconsin for "Flight School." Crane #7 didn't step out of his traveling box right away, but soon made himself at home. Every summer for the rest of his life he will return to this area of Wisconsin, where he will first fly.

Chick #7 did well with his training with the aircraft. He came out of the pen and followed along behind the little aircraft as it passed the pen, bumping down the grassy runway and urging the chicks to run behind. In a few weeks they will be able to get airborne and follow the plane.

Chick #7 arrives in Wisconsin July 9, 2013.Welcome to Wisconsin!
Image: Operation Migration

During training July 25, chick #7 lagged behind at the pen. Then he slowly wandered up the runway. When about halfway up he ran — flapping his wings in an attempt to fly and joined the first six that were following the trike. Training went smoothly thereafter with the seven birds. (Now able to fly, wayward crane #1 had flown off to land in the marsh by herself.) #7 on July 10, 2013
Image: Doug Pellerin
Crane #7 should be flying within a few days, predicted Richard at the end of July. Crane #7 is determined! 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.
Image: Tom Schultz
Crane #7 became a good, strong flyer during August. He'll be ready for migration departure! Crane #7 in flight
In Flight
Image: Wendy Chapman
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 #7 landed at Stopover #1 with pilot Richard and cranes 1, 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. Crane #7, an ace flier whohad started turning back during training sessions when #5 did, was fully in the game and showed he's still got it!

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 #7 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

November 3, 2013: Migration Day 33 The group of eight took off with Brooke for the 55-mile flight to LaSalle County. Crane #7 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 #7 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 After several attempts to get four reluctant birds to fly, the team had to crate and drive #2, #5, #7 and #8 the 101 miles flown by the other four cranes. The migration reached Chilton County, AL and 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.

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. And after a while crane #7 slid directly in front of pilot Brooke, so close he could almost reach out and touch his tail as the bird's wings flapped in the warm air and his head looked side to side for acknowledgement.  “Yes, #7.  You’re very special. Now get your butt back in line with the others," said Brooke. Happy New Year, with one more flight to the finish line!

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. 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 and leaving #2, #4, #5 and #9 at White River Marsh in Green Lake County. Cranes #7 and #8-13 moved to Horicon NWR in Dodge County.

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 21 November 21 for the winter. (Crane #5-13 died soon after.)

It was a sad day in mid January 2015 when Brooke found the remains of #7 and #2, likely killed by a predator(s). Brooke had tracked the transmitters of 7-13 and 2-13 into a wetland a few miles north of St Marks into mixed habitat—not a great place for cranes due to the presence of bobcats. The remains of both cranes had been scavenged and likely dragged into the woods. They were a mile apart when found.


Last Updated: 1/20/2015