Meet the Class of 2014 Whooping Cranes
Hatch-year 2014 of the Eastern Flock

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #14-03 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 3-14
Date Hatched May 13, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg



Personality and Training: Crane chick #3-14 is the little sister of #2-14 from eggs laid by a wild pair at Necedah NWR. She was the fluffiest-headed chick in the Class of 2014. She was introduced to the trike on May 19 at the age of 6 days. By May 26, #3 and her sister got along great. They happily went together around in the circle pen, following the trike.

Chick #3-14 gave the team a scare on June 25. They had a day out in the big White Series pond pen, where they learn to be social with one another. A Patuxent crane crew member led birds 2-14 through 9-14 back, while Geoff stayed back with 10-14 so she wouldn't get pecky with the other birds on the walk back. But when they all got back to the the pen, chick 3-14 was nowhere to be found! Always one of the last birds to make it back to her pen, she often got sidetracked by her search for worms and grubs and fell behind the group. This time, after a long, frantic search by everyone, she was found inside #2-14′s pen! She was never lost: She just wandered into the wrong pen by mistake.

#3-14 needed toe splints.
Toe Splints
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #3 on July 7 at Patuxent WRC
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #3's arrival in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom Schultz
The chicks all ran after the plane as it taxied to the end of the grassy training strip.
Chasing the Plane
Image: Crane Cam
Training on July 14
New Aircraft!
Image: Tom Schultz
Despite the downtime due to recent poor weather, all the girls did great flying with the aircraft, logging over 15 minutes of air time by the week of August 25!
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz

Ground crew team member Geoff says #3 has a certain sense of whimsy to her. "Some days she feels like flying, some days, not so much. It more or less depends on her mood. But when she tries, she's one of our better fliers. Also, every flock has a grape/smelt snatcher. And #3 fills that role with much gusto. She's still a good bird at heart."


Class of 2014 landing after training
Image: Tom Schultz
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 10 migration departure!

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. Crane #3 flew the distance to Stopover #1: four miles.

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #3-14 and #8-14 started off great, but the rest of the birds turned back. Instead of continuing the 14 miles to stop #2 with the two flying birds, the pilot turned back to Stopover #1 again and landed. The two were crated, along with #4-14, and driven to the second Stopover Site in Marquette County. Meanwhile, the other four turned back to their training site and had to be crated and driven. It was a long and disappointing day for the team!

October 16, 2014: Day 7 After being grounded by wrong winds or rain for 5 days, the birds were eager to move on. All seven formed up as pilot Richard took off, but the air grew trashy as they rose upward. They must have said NO WAY and turned back to their pen to await a day with better flight conditions! Attempted flight on Oct 16 with all 7 birds taking off

October 26, 2014: Day 17 Finally a fly day! Whooping cranes #3-14 and #8-14 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five had to be crated and driven to Stopover #3.

November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #3-14 followed Brooke's plane longer than any of the others before she landed in the Lodi Marsh south of town. All of the birds were captured and crated back to their enclosure in Columbia County, Wisconsin.

November 7, 2014: Day 29 Today the team flew the birds in two separate shifts on a short 5-mile leg to an interim stop in Dane County, Wisconsin. Success! The best fliers, cranes #2, 3, 7 and 8, were in the first group while the others were left behind to wait their turn. In this photo Brooke appears over the horizon with the first group—on their way to Dane County, WI. Pilot Brooke takes off with four cranes.
November 13, 2014: LEAP TO TENNESSEE! With no change in Wisconsin's grim weather outlook, the team performed a first: They boxed up and transported this year’s group of cranes 600 miles by vehicle to start over again where the weather should be better. This the longest segment of the migration route that will not be flown by the cranes since the initiation of this reintroduction in 2001. The birds were crated after sunset so the move could take place overnight, taking advantage of low light conditions, the least amount of traffic, and the time of day when the cranes would normally be roosting and less active. Cranes seldom eat or drink during the night so they were well hydrated and nourished before going to roost in their crates. The plan seems to have worked well. Upon release the next day, the happy birds ran right to a costumed Colleen for grape treats. The effects of not flying such a large section of the migration route are unknown, but the team is hopeful. Alas, the weather in Tennessee kept them grounded the first few days.
November 25, 2014: Day 47 Hooray! Crane #3 and all the others except #4 and #10, who were held back because they drop out soon after take-off, flew 65 miles with Joe's plane to Hardin County, TN.
November 26, 2014: Day 48 Sixty-seven miles to Winston Count, Alabama!
November 28, 2014: Day 50 Thanks to 15 mph tailwinds, they were able to skip right over another stop this morning to fly a total of 111 miles. In the 2 hours and 7 minutes they were airborne, they climbed to 5200 feet altitude. Thrilling!

December 2, 2014: Day 54 Forty-six miles to Lowndes County, Alabama—for all seven birds! The five following Joe had to work hard in headwinds and heat while #7 hogged the "sweet spot" and had an easy flight. Cranes #4 and #10 flew with Brooke's plane on their first real flight of the migration.

December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! Again today, five flew with Joe and two with Brooke.

Five of the cranes follow Joe's plane Dec. 2.

December 9, 2014: Day 61 All seven cranes flew again this morning, covering 117 miles and crossing Georgia! Here they are in Decatur County, GA. with only two flights to go!

December 10, 2014: Day 62 Another good day! All seven cranes flew 33 miles to Leon County, FLORIDA in 47 minutes. They flew just shy of 2,000 feet altitude at a ground speed of 51 mph, thanks to a nice tailwind. Only 28 miles to go!

All seven in the pen after flying 117 miles to  Decatur County, Georgia
December 11, 2014: Day 63 This morning after a 28-mile flight lasting 50 minutes, the seven 7-month-old Whooping Cranes landed for the first time on their new winter home at St. Marks NWR in Florida! Soon they can be truly wild cranes—flying free and wary of people and all things human. Team member Colleen and pilot Brooke Pennypacker will watch over the youngsters during the their first winter of freedom on the wintering grounds.

Cranes 2,3,7,8 and 9 on final flight
Image: Karen Wiles

Crnae 3's new leg bands
Image: Operation Migration
Cranes #3, #10 and #4 at St. Marks in March 2015
Wintering at St. Marks
Image: Beverly Paulan

Spring 2015: First Unaided Spring Migration North  

Departed St. Marks with #5-12 and the other four remaining juveniles in the Class of 2014 on April 3! Everyone hopes these crane-kids, who have a gap in their knowledge of the migration route between Tennessee and Wisconsin due to being trucked most of the way, will stick with #5-12. He led them and stayed with them into northern Illinois but left them there on April 8 (click on map). While the youngsters stayed in that location due to stormy weather, Brooke and Colleen monitored them from a safe distance so as not to spook them. They wandered when weather permitted, and landed at Union County, Kentucky—one of their migration stops on the journey south—week ending April 25. They seem to be restless and know they need to migrate, but can't "find north." The team decided it was time to help them get home.

Map of journey north 2015Click for Details

April 29: When a storm separated #3 (and also #4), Brooke and Colleen couldn't get to them for capture and relocation. Crane #3's signal didn't move for two days, and she was found on an island. Brooke swam (in his costume, with his puppet!) to the island and found her alive and stuck in a thick growth of cattails. Brooke trampled down an area in front of her so that she could take the needed 3-4 steps needed for takeoff and she was immediately airborne. Her latest signal put her in Pulaski County, Illinois. Crane 3's remote tracking device will help her be easy to find for capture and relocation—or maybe she'll somehow make it home by herself?

May 12: Heather and Joe successfully captured #3-14! Luckily, they found her in an accessible ag field in southern Illinois rather than her very remote roosting site. She was kept in a temporary pen while Heather and Joe made plans to capture #4-14. That capture took place on May 13, and #4-14 was transported on Illinois roads about 50 miles to be reunited with #3-14. On the night of May 14, the two wayward cranes were crated and driven through the darkness to Wisconsin. They were released by Heather and Joe at White River Marsh at sunrise on May 15—"migration" complete! Satellite readings indicated locations near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Washington County, Wisconsin, on May 19 and at the Horicon NWR in Dodge County, by roost on the next day. She remained at the Horicon NWR until moving north to Waushara County on May 23. She was observed there alone on 27 May 7 and later returned to White River Marsh. In June she managed to find her old pal #4-12.

They continued to spend time together all summer. Their "summer pals" group consisted of three males:#4-12, 5-12 and 4-14 (Peanut) and three females: 3-14, 9-14 and 10-14. They often visited the White River Marsh training site where the Class of 2015 was training for their fall migration with the ultralight aircraft.


Crane #3-14 steps onto White River Marsh after release on May 15, 2015
Release May 15, 2015
Image: Doug Pellerin
Cranes #3 and #4 fly free upon release May 15, 2015
Migration Complete!
Image: Doug Pellerin
3-14 and pal 4-12 foraging together
Best Friends
Image: Heather Ray
Fall 2015: First Unaided Fall Migration South: Eyes are on the Class of 2014 to see whether they will find their way south after being trucked nearly half of their first journey south, thus missing route knowledge gained by flight (see above).

On Nov. 6, sub-adult female #3-14’s satellite transmitter showed that she was on the move. On Nov. 12 her transmitter placed her in Christian County, Kentucky. By late November, she and female #10-14 were in Jenkins County, Georgia. Late on Dec. 8, cranes #3-14 and #10-14 (still with males #4-12 and #4-14, or "Peanut") arrived at St. Marks NWR in Florida! These four late arrivals had been blown east into east-central Georgia in mid-November and made one foray to McIntosh County, GA on the Atlantic coast. Very soon after that, they returned north to Jenkins County. On Dec. 8, a hit came in for #3-14, placing her near Live Oak, FL, about 80 miles east of St. Marks. Hooray! Every crane in the Class of 2014 has now made it to their Florida winter home!

Cranes 3-14 and 4-12 continued their close relationship after arriving at St. Marks. They hung out together near the pen, but moved about 80 miles north when the remains of #9-14 were discovered (bobcat predation likely) at the end of January, 2016. Perhaps they saw the predation of their cohort mate and decided it was time to move.

Map showing 2015 migration path south
Detour and Arrival
Operation Migration
Spring 2016: Female #3-14 and male 4-12 stayed together through the winter. The two wereat St. Marks NWR for a short timebefore moving north to Miller County, Georgia in late January. A PTT hit showed #3-14 migrating north (perhaps still with #4-12, who does not have a transmitter), reaching northwest Kentucky by March 8 after traveling 250 miles the first day and 180 miles the next. On March 16, a PTT hit indicated female Whooping crane #3-14 roosted just off the north end of the White River Marsh training site in Wisconsin. Her mate #4-12 was later confirmed still with her and the pair hung out in the area for the summer, along with several other Whooping cranes. In September, two of the 2016 Parent Reared crane colts were released near them in hopes that adults 3-14 and 4-12 would adopt one or both colts before fall migration.

Fall 2016: On October 7, it finally appeared that a new family was formed when #3-14 and mate #4-12 flew off to their roost location for the night with PR colt #30-16! Time passed and the new family was still together., and seemed to be the only "adoption" working as it was hoped to. The little familiy group is possibly together with male #4-13 (who always showed a lot of interest in the young PR crane), and 4-13's new mate #8-14.

Alloparents #3-14 and #4-12, with young PR #30-16, were a firm family and still at White River Marsh in Green Lake County, Wisconsin, as of Dec. 4. The family began migration on December 7 and reached Floyd Co, GA.

PR30-16 and alloparents #3-12 and #3-14 in Wisconsin in November
New Family (with PR 30-16)
Doug Pellerin

Spring 2017: Female 3-14 and her mate 4-12 completed migration back to White River Marsh in Wisconsin on the evening of March 21. The chick they adopted, Parent Reared #30-16, was in the marsh, too, but about 300 yards from the adults. "They likely chased him away now that they are back home," noted Operation Migration's Joe Duff. "That’s a good sign that they may breed this year and produce their own offspring. They taught PR30-16 how to migrate and to be wild, and maybe he taught them how to be good parents."

The Royal Couple (female #3-14 and male #4-12) made BIG excitement when their new nest was discovered in mid April on White River Marsh! It's the first nest at the marsh since the aircraft-led chick training was moved here in 2011—safely out of territory of the black fly species that feed on birds, causing so many nest abandonments on Necedah NWR. The pair, both hatched in incubators, also had the good instincts to build an incredible, symmetrical and tall nest platform in an ideal location surrounded by water, deep in the marsh. When heavy rains in late April made the water rise, the pair pulled additional cattails and vegetation onto the platform. Operation Migration's Heather Ray said on April 27, "We’re hopeful their instincts will continue to guide this pair for another 10-12 days, which is when we anticipate a hatch (or two)." Watch it all on the nest cam!

A sad outcome was in store as video feed revealed the nest was predated May 8th at 7:20 pm by a hungry coyote.  The two eggs both were viable. Egg fragments were collected. The nest is surrounded by water. The video feed showed the nesting adults doing everything they could to chase away another crane that intruded into their nesting territory. As the pair was distracted in those efforts, a determined coyote lurking nearby was able to get to their nest and eat the eggs. The eggs were due to hatch within a day or two at the most. We were reminded again that nature can be cruel.

The pair returned to the site of the empty nest the next day. Now we are left hoping and wondering: Will they try to nest again this season?


#3-14 on left, #4-12 on right at Necedah NWR March 2017
The Royal Couple Returns!
Tom Schultz
Aerial view of White River Marsh's first whooper nest
1st Nest, White River Marsh!
Bev Paulan
4-14 (right) is chased away from the nest site of pair
Chasing Away Interloper
Operation Migration Nest Cam
Empty nest after loss of eggs to coyote
Empty Nest
Brooke Pennypacker


Last Updated: 5/18/2017