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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #14-09 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 9-14
Date Hatched May 19, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg

Personality and Training: Crane chick #9-14 has a little sister (#10-14) in the Class of 2014. She was timid from the start, reluctant to exit her pen and enter the “Big World.” On May 26 Brooke was sure she would be ready, But no! On May 30, still no. It was like she was yelling, “No way, Jose!” When she finally did follow the costumed Brooke out, it was not far and not long before she turned and ran in panic back to the pen. She had no trust. After a number of failed attempts to win her confidence, Brooke said, "I was ready to call Colonel Sanders to come make a pickup." Then Sharon, another team member, offered to try. Costumed up, out into the afternoon heat she went, working her magic on the scared little #9. Using meal worms and patience, she coaxed #9 out the gate, one long, slow, confidence-building step at a time. After a long, calm rest in the nurturing shade of a nearby tree, the little chick trusted Sharon enough to follow her back into her pen. Sharon’s magic held its power. After a couple of days, #9 was right back in the lineup. She handled long walks with no trouble. Next came Flight School in Wisconsin. These images help tell the story:




Meeting the trike takes some comforting by the costumed handler.
Baby Steps
Image: Operation Migration
The three youngest chicks in the Class of 2014
Three Youngest
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #9 on July 7
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
Arrival day in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom SChultz


Exploring in Wisconsin
Exploring in Wisconsin
Image: Tom SChultz
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Feeling at Home
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
The chicks' feathers are changing.
Changing Feathers
Image: Tom Schultz
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz
September 16: Crane #9 was one of three cranes to get the new backpack transmitters used this year for the first time. This new way to track uses new technologies that make batteries last longer. "There are negatives to attaching anything to a free-flying bird, but the risk of injury is low, and there is a lot to be learned," writes Joe Duff.

On September 26, the backpack transmitters were removed from all three birds wearing them: #2, #7 and #9. The team observed that the backpack transmitters inhibited the cranes' normal flight ability. The next day, all six cranes again flew just great, and for a duration of 20 minutes and 9 seconds. Go cranes!

Crane #9 wears the new backpack transmitter, with tracking aerial visible.
Backpack Transmitter
Image: Operation Migration
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 10 migration departure!
Image: Operation Migration

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. After a couple of circuits, #9 dropped off and landed in front of the pen site, but he got another chance. Richard came in the new aircraft and with assistance from Swamp Monster (aka Jo-Anne wearing a scary, noisy tarp), convinced #9-14 that it was time to leave with Richard's aircraft. He did, and flew over the public flyover site, with about 20 people silently cheering him on to the first stopover site, 4 miles away.

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #2, 7, 9 and 10 took off but dismayed the team when they returned to their old White River Marsh training pen site instead of following the plane to Stopover #2. This has never happened in the team's past 13 seasons of leading cranes on migration! All were put in crates and driven to stop #2 in Marquette County, Wisconsin: 14 miles.

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! 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. Maybe #9 is still a bit set back from the time she was wearing the backpack transmitter.
November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #9-14 was last out of the pen on today's take-off, but she followed Brooke's plane a short time before turning back to land at the pen. All of the other birds also dropped out before any progress could be made. All 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 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, 2014: Day 47 Hooray! Crane #9 and all the others except #4 and #10, who were held back because they drop out shortly 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 (#10 and #4) 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

December 23, 2014: Freedom! The cranes were released to freedom on the morning of Dec. 23. This is the first year they won't have a final health check. On January 5 they'll be quickly caught one more time to get their permanent legbands and transmitters.


Colleen shows the birds the feeding stations after they've been released.
January 5, 2015: Each bird was quickly caught one more time to get permanent legbands and tracking transmitters. Crane 9's new leg bands
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.

On May 2, Brooke and Colleen captured 8, 9 and 10 (the other two got separated from them in stormy weather and weren't immediately accessible). The birds were crated, driven during the night, and released on White River Marsh on May 4, 2015. HOME!The three were still together the end of May, in Columbia County.

Fall 2015: First Unaided Fall Migration South: Eyes are especially on the Class of 2014 to see whether they will find their way south after they were trucked nearly half of their first journey south, missing the route knowledge they would have gained from flight (see above).

Crane #9-14 made it to St. Mark NWR in Florida by November 17th! She arrived with Whooping crane #5-12 and they were spotted at a favorite small pond a short distance from the pen where the Class of 2015 will spend the winter after they complete their aircraft-led migration.

Crane #9-14 (older by two days than her sister to 10-14, who died January 1st, 2016), died at the end of January, 2016. Tracks in the area indicate a bobcat was the culprit in both cases.


Last Updated: 2/2/ 2016