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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane baby #10
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 10-14
Date Hatched May 21, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg

Temporary leg band: white

Personality and Training: Crane chick #10-14 is the youngest in the Class of 2014 cohort. She is a full sister to chick #9-14.

At first, all the chicks got along well with each other except for 10-14. At the end of June, Geoff wrote: "She’s a bird who loves her space more than life itself, and any bird who’s in her three-foot bubble is in for a bad time. She’ll peck or chase them out of her comfort zone." Luckily, she's fine once the others get away from her. She has a lot to be sunny about, as her tough attitude has landed her the top spot in the pecking order. The chicks do their best to stay out of her way. It’s a challenge when another chick wants some food at a feeder, or wants to get near to "the costume," which #10 loves with all her heart!

In flight school in Wisconsin, chick #10 was shy of the gate and had to be coaxed out of the chicks' enclosure. After she's out onto the runway, she also has a bad habit of heading off into the field on her own. "Baaaaad girl! (and still not the most sociable)," said Heather at Operation Migration.

Crane 10 gets weighed
Getting Weighed
Image: Operation Migration
The three youngest chicks socialize at Patuxent WRC on June 13, 2014.
Three Youngest
Image: Operation Migration
Crane #10 on July 10 at Patuxent WRC in Maryland
Lying Down
Image: Operation Migration
Chick #10 was the first to step out of the crates when the chicks had arrived in Wisconsin.
First Step 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
By July, many crane-cam watchers nicknamed #10 "Marsha" because she hardly ever came out of the pen without being coerced out, and then she'd head into the marsh to poke around for food! But as the middle of August neared, she suddenly was an entirely different crane. She started coming out of the pen just late enough to be fashionable– and then followed the small aircraft as it fired down the training strip and into the AIR! The first time, she actually flew two full minutes—and what a thrill for the team to see. Will this girl-bird turn out to be a great flyer and follower after all?
First flight!
First Flight!
Image: Ruth Peterson

Migration departure is just over a month away, and the chicks are doing better each day. By August 18, #10 had gone from being the "problem child" to eagerly exiting the pen and flying well with the trike!

By the week of August 25, all the girls did great flying with the aircraft, logging over 15 minutes of air time despite the downtime due to recent poor weather.

#10's wingspan, August 19, 2014
Wings to be Proud Of
Image: Tom Schultz
Crane #10 on August 18, 2014
Good Flyer
Image: Deb Johnson
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz

Crane #10 likes to hold out on the runway after training and needs to be coerced into returning to the pen. The team is thankful that she has stopped her habit of dropping off into the marsh, earning her the nickname "Marsha."

Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South

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

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 pensite 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 10 migration departure!
Image: Operation Migration

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
Disappointing Day
Image: Tom Schultz

October 26, 2014: Day 17 Finally a fly day! Cranes #10, #3 and #8 were off to a good start, but #10 later dropped out. She was probably distracted by the other four cranes who had dropped out. Those five birds were crated and driven Stopover #3 in Columbia County, Wisconsin, while #3 and #8 flew the whole 28 miles.

November 3, 2014: Day 23 It was a great take-off for all seven birds, but it didn't last. They all dropped, out one by one.

Cranes #4 and #10 after dropping out in a cornfield
#10 and #4 Drop Out
Image: Operation Migration

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 #10 and #4 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 10 and 4 were held back because they've dropped out of the flights leading the other birds with them. It's not their fault: Crane 10 learned the wrong lesson after weeks of not flying due to all the bad-weather days in the north. She traveled much of this migration in a cardboard box (see right), covering the miles 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.

Crate in which Crane #10 traveled many of the migration segments
December 2, 2014: Day 54 Hooray! Cranes #10 and #4 got the chance to take off and fly today's segment of the migration route. They flawlessly flew all 46 miles to Lowndes County, Alabama. They flew 46 miles to Lowndes County, Alabama. Finally, this was their first real flight of the migration. 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.

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.

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.

March, 2015: Brooke reports that the Class of 2014 appear to be getting a bit antsy; they’ve been dancing more frequently. He also said that warming temperatures are bringing all kinds of tasty critters to the surface so the chicks are having fun probing in the mud. When will they begin their first journey north?

Crane 10'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. map of 2015 journey north
Click for Details

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 three birds were crated, driven during the night, and released on White River Marsh on May 4, 2015. HOME! 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.


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).

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!

January 1, 2016: Sad news indeed. The remains of #10-14 were discovered near the winter pen (still awaiting arrival of the Class of 2015) on the first day of the new year. Just as in her days of training with her ultralight-led cohort, she continued to occasionally wander away from the group of cranes she had been associating with. That means fewer eyes watching for predators, which exist everywhere. Her remains will be sent to the National Wildlife Health Lab in Madison, WI for necropsy but bobcat predation is suspected.

Map showing 2015 migration path south
Detour and Arrival
Operation Migration

Last Updated: 1/4/2016