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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #4-14 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 4-14
Date Hatched May 15, 2014
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training: Crane chick #4-14 was dubbed "Peanut" by Brooke soon after hatching because he was so small. "I swear he’s a mouse disguised as a crane chick!" exclaimed Brooke, who was one of his daily caretakers. This chick turned out to be the ONLY male in the Class of 2014!

Chick #4 got a late start due to health problems, but soon he was back in the lineup for ground school training. He had his first On/Off trike engine conditioning session May 25 and wasn't scared at all. Soon he was following the trike around the circle pen along with the other six chicks, all girls. He joined right in. See what happened as his training unfolded:

July 7
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
Arrival day in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom Schultz

#4 checks out the water basin at White River Marsh
Image: Doug Pellerin

#4 on july 10
July 10
Image: Doug Pellerin
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Flight School Starts
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
First 2-minute flight!
Now Flying!
Image: Ruth Peterson
This year's only male crane, #4-14 developed a limp Aug. 26 while playing in the winds during a strong storm the day before. He was on the disabled list to allow it to heal. On some days the team let him out on the runway for exercise. Everybody just loves his good-natured ways and hopes his leg heals in time for migration.
Crane #4 gets entertained by the costume and some floating mealworms.
Disabled List
Image: Tom Schultz

Crane #4's leg has not healed as quickly as hoped and was re- injured a week ago as he played on the runway. He has been patient and brave and good-natured, even when the doctor put a leg brace on him September 19. He was grounded for about 3 weeks. During that time the team let him out for exercise on days when it's too windy for the aircraft to fly to help build muscles and endurance.

#4 with hjis new hinged leg brace to help his leg heal
Leg Brace
Image: Operation Migration
Crane # lands after being let out of confinement
Image: Tom Schultz
#4 lands in the marsh on Sep. 28
In the Marsh
Image: Tom Schultz
#4 preens his new radio transmitter
Brace Off, Band On
Image: Operation Migration

October 6: Weather won't permit the migration to begin today, but the team hopes to give #4 a private training session so he gets the benefit of the air currents off the wing to help his flight as he gains endurance. How will he do on migration? Heather says: "The team may fly the six girls to the first migration stop, then come back and get him so he has his own aircraft. If he can't make the entire five miles, we'll have to crate him, but he was a great follower prior to his hock injury so we're hopeful he still is!"

Crane #4 HATES puppets but he's very docile to the costume. Like a little puppy, he will will follow the costume anywhere.

#4 with his new leg band
New Band
Image: Heather Ray
Older cranes #4-12 and 5-12 show up to stall Peanut's training time alone with the airplane and pilot.
Training Foiled
Image: Colleen Chase
#4 attacks his first pumpkin
First Pumpkin
Image: Doug Pellerin
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South
October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. The plan was for the aircraft to return for Peanut (#4) so he could have the wing to himself for extra help in flight. By the time the plane returned, the air had gotten bumpy. Crane #4 tried his best before he dropped out after flying 7 minutes. It was the longest he'd flown in over a month! He was boxed up to finish the short distance to Stopover #1 where his flockmates waited. Migration is underway! October 10 migration departure!
October 11, 2014: Day 2 At the first stopover site and for the first time since his injury, Peanut was released to fly with the other six cranes. He landed after a couple of circuits of flying. He wasn't the only one that didn't fly the distance to stopover #2 today. None of the others cooperated to do that either, and all were crated and driven the 14 miles to Marquette County. Eventually they'll get used to the drill---hang in there! Crane #4

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.

Richard later said the second bird from the wing was Peanut, #4-14, making a great start!

Attempted flight on Oct 16 with all 7 birds taking off
October 26, 2014: Day 17 Finally a fly day! All seven took off, but cranes #3 and #8 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five that dropped out were crated and driven to Stopover #3. Leg issues may still be bothering #4, but he's trying!
November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #4 took off with the group just fine, but none of them stuck with the plane very long. All dropped out and had to be 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 photo shows cranes #4, 9 and 10, who were in the second group. All few the distance with Richard to join their flockmates in Dane County, WI. Flying to Dane County, WI.
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, 26, and 28, 2014: Days 47, 48 & 50 Cranes #4 and #10 were held back on these three flights, slipped into their crates before the aircraft arrived to take off with the others. They were driven while the others flew. Without #4 and #10 to lead them in dropping out, the other five flew with no problems at all. All seven birds were reunited again at the new stopovers.

Cranes 4 and 10 were held back because they've dropped out of the flights leading the other birds with them. It's not their fault: Crane 4’s issues started with his leg injury, and Crane 10 learned the wrong lesson after weeks of not flying due to all the bad-weather days in the north. They traveled much of this migration in a cardboard box (see right), riding over roads aboard a van.

The team still hopes to include these two birds, one at a time, in hopes it learns by example and falls into line with the others. They also hope that the five good followers have regained their lost loyalty to the plane and will be less inclined to follow one dropout bird if the lesson doesn’t take on the first try.

Cardboard box for shiiping crane #4
December 2, 2014: Day 54 Hooray! Cranes #4 and #10 got the chance to take off and fly today's segment of the migration route. They flew 46 miles to Lowndes County, Alabama. Finally, this was their first real flight of the migration. Crane #4 was in the lead, and both birds are back in the game! Crane #4 (lead) and #10 on their first real migration flight: Dec. 2, 2012.
December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! It was a warm day with some headwinds, which would take their toll on the birds. The team debated releasing all seven together but felt that 4 and 10 would lose the battle for the lead to the five that have now found their own order in the air. That means #4 and #10 would be at the back of the line where they would have to work the hardest. So again today, these two took off with Brooke and had his plane all to themselves as they flew the distance! Cranes #4 and #10 flying with Brooke on Dec. 3.
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!
All seven in the pen after flying 117 miles to  Decatur County, Georgia
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! Cranes #4 and #10 fly with Brooke on Dec. 9
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 4 and 10 on their final flight with the aircraft!

Colleen shows the birds the feeding stations after they've been released.Dec. 23: Freedom!
Image: Colleen Chase

Crane 4's new leg bands
Image: Operation Migration
#8, #10 and #4 at St. Marks in March
On Wintering Grounds
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."


map of 2015 journey north
Click for details of migration

May: The team decided it was time to help them get home, but cranes #4 and #3 had gotten separated from the other three during one of the many storms. Crane #4-14 (aka Peanut) was in good habitat and very close to the area where number #3-14 was found, but both were inaccessible for capture. Crane #4 does not have a remote tracking device and must be tracked using the receiver and antenna that detects the beep from his radio transmitter. The team will keep trying and plans to recapture and relocate #4 and #3 to Wisconsin to join their other flock mates, already safely there and released.

On May 13 Peanut was located and safely captured in Union County, Kentucky and transported approximately 50 miles the pen where the previously captured #3-14 was being kept. 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!

He wandered for a while but ended up with a "summer pals" group that included males#4-12 and 5-12 and three females: #3-14, 9-14 and 10-14.

Crane #4 steps onto White River Marsh after his May 15 release there.
Release May 15, 2015
Image: Doug Pellerin
Cranes #3 and #4 fly free upon release May 15, 2015
Migration Complete!
Image: Doug Pellerin
Fall 2015: First Unaided Fall Migration South: Eyes are on the Class of 2014 to see whether they will find their way south after missing large segments of their first journey south (see above).
Satellite readings on Nov. 6 from two females in #4-14's "summer pals" group showed them on the move, but it was not known whether the group was traveling together. It turned out that they were: Late on Dec. 8, crane #4-14, his two female cohort mates, and older male #4-12 arrived at St. Marks NWR in Florida! The new arrivals had been blown east into east-central Georgia in mid-November and made one foray to McIntosh County, GA on the Atlantic coast on their journey south before finding their way to St. Marks. Hooray! Every crane in the Class of 2014 has now made it to their Florida winter home!
Map showing 2015 migration path south
Detour and Arrival
Operation Migration
This photo shows 4-14's bright red crown in March 2016. He liked to hang around the release pen with the youngsters in the Class of 2015. If they leave as a group to forage and explore, he often flies with the group. Brooke thinks it's not so much to chaperone as just to get away from the other older birds that so often harass him. "At times you think he must be wearing a T-shirt that says, 'Chase Me' that only they can see," said Brooke.
Peanut in March 2016
Peanut: Grown up!
Operation Migration
Spring 2016: "Peanut" (4-14) left Florida with cranes 4-12, 3-14 and 5-12. The team noted, "It is interesting that in the end, Peanut, who was for most of the winter treated as an outcast by the older birds, went along in the first wave north." The three other birds returned to Wisconsin, but Peanut's departure from Florida was the last sighting of him for several months, and no one knows where he spent the summer and fall.

Fall 2016: Hooray! Crane #4-14 was finally located! In December, he showed up at St. Marks NWR in Wakulla Co, FL, spending time around the pen where the Class of 2014 was released upon their arrival last year in Florida. He was with three other Whooping Cranes, and the team was thrilled to get the news. He spent time with mateless male 5-12 at the St. Marks pen site where both these birds had landed ias juveniles on their aircraft-led migration.

Peanut stuck with his buddy #5-12 even after the other adult pair left March 11 on their migration. Will Peanut and #5-12 migrate north together as buddies? Will Peanut return to Wisconsin? Last spring he did not, and was missiing until he showed up back at St Mark’s one day in December. (The team thinks maybe peanut went back to S. Illinois and the Ohio River, where he was caught for relocation the spring before.)

5-12  and 4-14 at St. Marks NWR, Dec. 2016
Peanut (right) and 5-12
Operation Migration

Spring 2017: Crane 4-14 (a.k.a. Peanut) began migration March 24 with buddy #5-12. He did not, however, return to Wisconsin's White River Marsh on March 31st with #5-12. He DID show up later, and dismayed everyone when, on the evening of May 8, he intruded on the pair of cranes incubating the very first nest in White River Marsh. As the nesting pair frantically attempted to drive 4-11 away from the nest (photo at right), their precious eggs — just one day away from hatching!—were eaten by a determined coyote in a stunning loss. The event was recorded on the nest cam placed there in hopes of seeing the eggs hatch.


4-14 (right) is chased away from the nest site of pair
4-11 (right) chased away
Operation Migration Nest Cam

Last Updated: 5/10/2017