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

Crane # 929 (#29-09)

Date Hatched

June 5, 2009



Egg Source

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

New colors as of Nov. 7, 2014

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
Photo Beverly Paulan,
Operation Migration

Notes from the captive breeding "hatchery" at Patuxent WRC in Maryland:

Little 929 was introduced to the trike for the first time on June 12. It was so scary for him that he dropped straight to the ground in a cowering position. When Bev and Brooke got him to stand up again, he ate an occasional mealworm, but he was shaking so much from fright that they decided to cut the session short and give him a break. He will get many more chances to get over his fear.


Arrival in Wisconsin
Photo Bev Paulan, Operation Migration

Notes of Flight School in Wisconsin:
He was flown to Wisconsin with Cohort #3 chicks on July 10. Their first training session as a group was July 15 and 929 did beautifully. All of the chicks followed the trike and paid no attention to one another. This cohort has a wide age range so the older birds are much bigger than 928, 929 and 931. The trainers keep the three younger chicks together on one side of the pen, away from the bigger birds. They did well. Less than two weeks later, all of them came out of the pen, followed the ultralight eagerly, and gobbled up treats when they reached the end of the runway. These youngest birds weren't flying yet at the end of July, but are making progress. Go, Cohort 3! By mid August he was starting to fly in ground effect, and by the end of the month he was flying well for short distances. He just needs to build up his flying time in the next weeks and he'll be ready to migrate.


Crane 929 got picked on by #927 in the early part of the summer, and maybe it made him a bit aggressive. By the end of August #929 had turned into the typical teenager. Big for his age, he likes to throw his weight around. Bev said he would be lippy if he could talk! But because he can’t talk, he uses his beak to boss others. He jabs hard at the puppet and doesn’t back down when it the the puppet is raised above his head to be taller and show dominance. He still tries to be tall. Once when he refused to back down and kept jabbing with his beak, Bev bumped him gently. He then stuck out both wings and stomped his feet at her! Later, when Bev was bending over to check another bird, the belligerent #929 jabbed her helmet so hard that Bev got a headache. Calm down, #929! Erin said on Sep. 19: "This bird is not a big fan of Bev or I, but I can now get #929 to back down by raising my puppet over his head and standing firm. Before, Bev had to interfere and help me." Maybe #929 is learning his place!

Crane 929 is Bev's old nemesis. By September he seemed to have lost his imagined grudge against her and never pecks hard. "He pecks at the puppet, at my costume, at my sleeve and my helmet." He is still very small. This little chick's dad is from a BIG Patuxent WRC whooper named Goliath, so maybe he'll be much bigger some day.

First Migration South: Chick #929 (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 #929 below.
Oct. 17: Chick #929—the youngest—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, #929! Pilot Joe Duff took this photo of Richard and the four:

Oct. 27: Today chick 929 proved again that he's a great follower as he flew to Stopover #2 with six flockmates and Richard's ultralight. This photo was captured from the CraneCam soon after arrival of the seven "leaders."

Nov. 1: Hooray! 929 (and ALL the others!) flew the distance to Stopover #3. No crates needed! Now we can expect more of this. They are gaining strength and confidence.

Bev reminds us: "929 is still one of the largest. He stills tries to stare me down, but has grown out of his obnoxious, beat-up-the-handler phase. Typical for his age, he has a very mottled look as he sheds his tan baby feathers and the new adult white ones come in."

Nov 20: Crane 929 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 course and 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.

What's unusual about Crane 929's leg bands?
Photo: Sara Zimorski, ICF

January 20, 2010, Day 89: Migration complete for the "Chass 10:" #901, 903, 904, 905, 907, 913, 919, 924, 927, and 929! Male 929 — the youngest of the 20 ultralight-led cranes —flew every single mile of this migration on his own wingpower! Only three others in the Class of 2009 can boast that too. In fact, #929 was first to land at the Chass pen: "He dropped out right next to us— exactly what we wanted them ALL to do. But the other nine kept circling. Then 929 appeared to be getting anxious, peeping loudly and staring up at his still- circling classmates," said Eva. "Matt and I tried distracting him with grapes but he still seemed distressed at being separated from the group. When he began leaning forward in pre-flight stances, I moved in front of him to block his path. But he eventually stretched his wings and took off, rejoining the group as they passed over our heads once again. They circled a few more times, then landed just outside the pen. It took a little while, but we were able to get them into the open pen and then into their temporary top-netted pen."

Winter at Chass NWR: Sara explains why you must pay close attention to 929's leg bands: "Typically, all the birds from one year have the same color VHF transmitter. But his year with 29 chicks there were not enough combinations within that series so one bird, #929, got an all-white VHF transmitter. This all-white VHF band is the first in a new series. This band makes 929 this year's "odd duck," but at least it's easy for the trackers to identify him from all the other Chass birds."
March 13: The nine remaining chicks at Chass (#903 disappeared) with adult pair #105 and #501were beginning to show signs of migration restlessness. Eva said, "It was a windy night and they continued to fly around, land, fly around, land, fly around, land…well, you get the picture. This is typical behavior for the chicks before they decide to head back north. Although it would be a little on the early side for them to be leaving this week, we are not sure if the adult pair will entice the chicks to leave earlier than they would otherwise."

Spring 2010, First Journey North: The "Chass 9" crane kids (901, 904, 905, 907, 913, 919, 924, 927 and 929) began migration on April 5 at 10:00 a.m. With them were subadults 824, 827 and 830. While they did not remain in one group for the whole flight, they ended up landing together in Grady County, Georgia around 6:00 p.m. The Chass group, now minus #907, who took off on her own in the early morning of April 6, continued migration and roosted the night of April 6 in Jackson County, Alabama. This was just 10 miles from the Tennessee border, and 285 miles from their previous stop. On April 7 they flew 250 miles to Orange County, Indiana where they dropped out early because of deteriorating weather conditions. The group of 11 continued migration to Porter County, Indiana (southeast of Chicago), on April 9. Here they split into a group of eight (#824, 827 and 830, 901, 904, 905, 924 and 929) and a group of three (#913, 919 and 927). Both groups continued migration the next day (April 10), when the group of eight made it home. Their signals were detected the next day, April 11, on Necedah NWR: migration complete! Crane #929 has not been detected since completing migration to the vicinity of Necedah NWR and landing at an undetermined roost location on 11 April.

Sometimes #925 and #929 hog the feeding stations instead of finding their own food! They've been allowed to stay near the chicks this winter.
Photo Operation 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, 918, 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. Their locations while away from the pen have not been determined. He and #925 are both smaller than the others, and the bigger cranes pickd on them. The two kept wanting to hang around the pen with the five chicks during the winter. They were no threat and were finally allowed to stay and not be driven off like the other more aggressive cranes.

Spring 2011: On March 21, the first day of spring, #929 (#29-09) and #925 (#25-09) began migration from the St. Marks pensite, taking two males (#1-10 and #8-10) from the class of 2010 with them! Data from their GPS transmitters indicated that they made it to Macon County, Alabama, nearly 200 miles to the north and right on course. GPS data from #1-10 indicates that on the night of March 24th, he had made it to Jackson County, AL in the northeast portion of the state, but is not known if older cranes #929 (#29-09) and #925 (#25-09) and classmate #8-10 are still with him. Then, on March 30, crane #929 (#29-09) was detected on Necedah NWR and at Horicon NWR in Dodge County, on April 1.

Fall 2011: Migrated and spent at least part of the winter in Greene County, Indiana.

Spring 2012: Pair #929 (#29-09) and #925 (25-09) were reported back on Necedah NWR on March 16. ICF tracker Eva saw #918 and #925 with an egg May 2 but they never incubated the egg: No chicks for this pair in summer 2012.

Fall 2012: New pair #29-09 and mate #3-12 (12-03) were detected at a usual migration stopover in Vigo County, Indiana on November 1.

Spring 2013: Male #929 (#29-09) was not detected with his mate #312 (12-03) when she returned on March 28 to Necedah NWR, so either his signal is not working or he didn't arrive with #12-03. In mid-April the female was seen alone, still without male #29-09.

Fall 2013: Male #29-09 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: Male #29-09 was observed on Necedah NWR on the same day his mate, female #12-03, was observed with another male. Tracker Eva reported that 29-09 also took a new mate, #4-11.

Fall 2014: Male #29-09 was captured by ICF trackers in Wisconsin Nov. 7 for transmitter replacement. He also received a completely new set of color codes on his bands (see at top of page). He migrated to Indiana, where he was seen in December with male #12-02 and his youngster W3-14, as well as #11-04 and #19-10. This group left left Greene County, Indiana, and moved south to Lawrence County, Alabama, the first week in January. This group returned to Greene County, Indiana on February 7, 2015, where they remain.

Spring 2015: Male #29-09 had returned to Wood County, Wisconsin by March 26. He was reported with #12-03 and they nested. The eggs from the first nest were removed April 16 as part of the forced renesting effort, and #12-03 laid more eggs in a second nest. On June 8, Wisconsin DNR Pilot Bev Paulan photographed one chick with one of the parents but the chick did not survive to fledge.

Fall 2015:

Spring 2016: Male #29-09 and mate #12-03 were observed back on territory in Wisconsin by the March 30 aerial survey flight. Their first nest failed but they were sitting on a second nest on May 6. Chick W7-16 hatched on May 24 and W8-16 on May 25. Both chicks were still alive on the June 7 aerial survey but only W7 survived and was flying short distances near its parents by Aug. 4 (photo). The chick was still alive in September, and by then was the single surviving chick of the 2016 breeding season. Unfortunately, W7-16 was killed by a predator in October.

Fall 2016: Pair #29-09 and #39-03 migrated in November to Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2017: Male #29-09 and mate #12-03 were back in Wisconsin territory and nesting by early April. First eggs were removed in the Forced Re-nesting Study. They re-nested and hatched chick W13-17 on June 5. The chick was still alive as of the July 18th aerial survey.

Last updated: 7/18/17

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