Meet the 2009 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2009 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 918 (#18-09)

Date Hatched

May 25, 2009



Egg Source

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
 radio antenna
  • Read about the naming system, hatch place in Maryland, release site in Wisconsin, over-wintering site in Florida, and leg-band codes.

Personality, Early Training
Notes from the captive breeding "hatchery" at Patuxent WRC in Maryland:

When 918 looks up and sees a butterfly flitting overhead, he takes off at full run trying to catch the butterfly. He jumps up and tries to grab it just as the butterfly darts off.

On May 30 Bev took 918 out to the trike for the first time just to let him wander around it and under it: "We turned the vocalizer on, trying to give him the whole sensory experience. We fed him meal worms and let him get comfortable just seeing the trike. On June 1 Brooke started the engine for the little guy. After the initial engine start, lots of meal worms, and even some revving of the engine, we got him to follow for two circuits. I like to keep the first training session short. This way, we leave the circle pen with the chick happily trilling and actually looking for more meal worms." Off to a great start!

As the days passed, 918 was a slow learner about not messing with 914, the "queen" of his group! Luckily he was also smart enough to know when to back down. Bev calls 918 (and 919) little stinkers!

July training in Wisconsin
Photo Operation Migration

Notes of Flight School in Wisconsin:
He was flown to Wisconsin with Cohort #2 chicks on July 2. Normally the chicks stand up in their crates for the whole flight (about 5 hours) but during the flight, 918 was sitting on his hocks. Was he injured? Dr. Barry Hartup wanted to make sure #918 was okay before taking the one-hour van ride to Necedah. He found no sign of injury. The bird just didn't feel like standing! Project leader Joe Duff met the plane and drove the van with the chicks in their crates from the airport to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Joe said, "We had barely started our drive when 918 sat down again. As long as there is no injury it is likely a safer way to ride except for the possibility of overheating. We prevented that by cranking up the A/C to max." Chick 918 and all the others settled into their new pen just fine!

Safely in his new home, it didn't take long for 918 to prove that he loved the water of the marsh. Chris said, "918 is going to be a challenge as he has a history of exploring the marsh in search of water."

July 10 was Bev's first day to taxi the trike during flight school. She said, "918 is our little water rat, and just as he does every morning, he wandered into the marsh. This morning, though, he didn’t go far, and after leaving him for one pass with the other chicks, he came out as soon as we taxied back to the spot where he stood."

By the end of July the cohort #2 birds were all flying in ground effect, a few feet off the grassy strip, and close to gaining good altitude. However, on many days #918 liked to lollygag and hang back inside the pen instead of rushing out to training. He LOVES the marsh and tries to spend the entire training session running along the fence that separates it from the runway. One day near the end of July, he and the other 8 chicks in Cohort 2 followed the ultralight well on a lap down the runway. But on the return lap, naughty 918 once again escaped to the swamp and two chicks went with him. Meeting up with the swamp monster (which Richard deployed from the trike by yanking on a string attached to a broom out in the swamp) scared the other two back onto the grass runway — but NOT 918! An adult pair of whoopers took charge of 918 and Richard and Erin had their hands full. Richard said: "At long last, after much jump-raking and many back-and-forth threats we managed to get 918 away from the adults and back into the pen. With boots full of water I flew back to the hangar pondering life without the superhero/monster tarp and — maybe without 918!"

Hear Bev talking about 918 with Mark Chenoweth of Whoopers Happening on August 12.

This is a very independent group of birds, but none more than 918. But he seems to be a favorite of the two adult Whoopers (#213 and #218) who who lost their baby chick this summer and then claimed this training site as their territory. The team discussed releasing #918 to go join the wild adults. Would they raise 918 and teach him the migration route? The team decided to keep 918 with his cohort because of all the training already invested. They hoped he will become a better follower of the ultralight plane. Sure enough, he did! Hear crane handler Bev on this brief audio clip: >>

Later, 918’s attitude/attentiveness to the adults cooled off. Now that he’s flying, he visits the marsh much less, and he excitedly follows the training trike along with his cohort mates. Still, #918 is a bird who likes to do his own thing — which means hanging out in the marsh or staying in the wet pen.

Oct. 11: The team hoped to combine training with a flight to a remote part of the refuge where a travel pen was set up. The birds would be closer to their first migration stopover. But several wayward birds had other plans! Male 918 was one of them. He had flown back to his familiar pen all on his own, so he was put inside the pen along with the other 10 birds who had also come back or didn't want to leave. The other 9 flockmates were at the travel pen at the farther site on the refuge. What a day!

First Migration South: Chick #918 (and 14 others!) turned back to Necedah NWR when the Class of 2009 left on their first migration on October 16, 2009. They all had to try again the next day to follow the ultralights to the migration's first stopover site, where five flockmates landed on Day 1. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #918 below.
Oct. 17: Chick #918 was one of the four who flew with Richard from the old pen at Necedah NWR onward to Stopover #1 to bring the number of chicks there to 11. Go, #918! Pilot Joe Duff took this photo of Richard and the four:

Oct. 27: Once again, 918 was a good follower to Stopover #2 with no problems! He was one of only 7 to do so. This photo was captured from the CraneCam soon after arrival of the seven "leaders."

Nov. 1: Hooray! 918 (and ALL the others!) flew the distance to Stopover #3. No crates needed!

Nov 20: Crane 918 was one of the 16 who flew off on this exercise day and didn't come back! The 16 flew more than 15 miles before Richard located and caught up to them. He then turned them on courseand led them to safe landing at the next planned stopover. Until today, this has never happened since the pilots began leading whoopers south in 2001.

Nov 30: Crane 918 was one of the three birds who flew loyally but then dropped out when he got too frustrated in rough winds to finish. He finished the trip to Stopver #9 traveling by road in a crate.

January 13, 2010, Day 82: Migration complete for the "St. Marks 10:" #906, 908, 910, 911, 912, 914, 915, 918, 925, and 926! Crane 918 flew all but 8 miles of this migration!

Spring 2010, First Journey North: Eight of the St. Marks juveniles left at mid-day March 24 on their first journey north! According to a PTT reading from #908, she (and probably #915 #910, #911, #914, #918, #925 and #926) reached Shelby County, Alabama— about 260 miles from the pen! Their next flight took them an additional 380 miles to Monroe County, IN, where an observer photo confirmed that they were all still together. As of March 29 they had flown another 73 miles to the Fountain County, IN, roughly 70 miles due east of the Piatt Co., IL stopover used during their ultralight-guided journey south last fall. Tracker Eva said a PTT reading for #915 on March 31 put them in Monroe County, Wisconsin. On April 1 Sara picked up their signals in the Necedah area. They successfully completed migration!"

Fall 2010: Remained on Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin at least through October 15 along with the cranes he had been with all summer and a few others. He and #908, 911, 915, 925, and 929 returned to the St. Marks NWR release site from an undetermined location on the morning of December 29 when the five chicks in the Class of 2010 had already been there for several days. They continued to return to the pen site periodically but the "costumes" always drove them away. The group (except for 925 and 929) were found in Leon County, FL during a survey flight on January 13. They were not found in a search of the area by ground on February 9.

Spring 2011: Crane #918 (#18-09) and #908 (8-09) had completed migration from Florida by April 2, when they were detected on the Necedah NWR. They had last been detected SE of Tallahassee, FL, during a survey flight on March. 11. They were then with #911, #915 and male #829.

Fall 2011: Crane #18-09, with #25-09, spent winter in Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2012: Crane #18-09 was reported back on Necedah NWR March 11, migration complete! ICF tracker Eva saw #18-09 and #25-09 with an egg May 2, but the pair never incubated the egg.

Fall 2012:

Spring 2013: Crane #918 (18-09) was reported back on Necedah NWR March 29 withh mate #925 (#25-09).

Fall 2013: Male #18-09 was likely among seven Whooping Cranes reported in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on January 24 and in a group of seven reported in Franklin County, Tennessee, on January 29. "We assume these are the same birds," said ICF tracker Eva Szyszkoski. "Based on band reports they are likely birds 12-09, 12-03/29-09, 18-09/35-09 and 10-09/17-07, although not all have been confirmed yet."

Spring 2014: Crane #18-09 was confirmed back on Necedah NWR on March 27 when he was observed trying to steal female #26-09 from male #27-06.

Fall 2014: Male #18-09 migrated south to Knox County, Indiana, where he joined several other Whooping Cranes at that location by his arrival on Nov. 23.

Fall 2015: Male #18-09 migrated south in November to Greene County, Indiana, where he was with female #23-10 DAR and several other Whooping Cranes.

Spring 2016: Male #18-09 returned to Juneau County, Wisconsin, with female #23-10 DAR. Their first nest failed but they were observed on a renest May 6. Their new chick, W20-16, hatched on June 5 but did not survive into the summer.

Fall 2016: Missing. The last sighting for #18-09 was July 5, 2016, in Juneau County, Wisconsin.

Spring 2017: Still missing.


Last updated: 6/05/17

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