Meet the Class of 2010 Whooping Crane Chicks!
Hatch-year 2010 of the Eastern Flock

Crane # 2-10

Date Hatched

May 4, 2010



Egg Source

Calgary Zoo, Canada

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg

Temporary/migration band: black 2

  • 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:

Before he was born: Chick #2-10 had already traveled many miles before hatching. A man named Dwight is the flock manager for the captive Whooping cranes at Calgary Zoo in Canada. He and other crane experts get the eggs of those cranes delivered to important Whooping crane projects. In spring 2010 Dwight carefully packed some fresh crane eggs in a portable incubator long before you were even awake. Then he spent hours getting them warmly and safely through airport security, customs officials, and traffic. He brought the eggs all the way from Calgary, Canada to Maryland, USA. The eggs were tucked into the incubator at Patuxent WRC. Those eggs hatched into chicks #2-10 and #4-10.

-Jane Chandler, Patuxent WRC

Circle-Pen Training with 1-10.
Photo Joe duff, Operation Migration

Chick #2-10 was six days old in the photo at the top. Always curious, he has never been afraid to try new things. He trusts the costume, but doesn’t put up with hassling from fellow chicks and isn’t afraid to get in their faces. Geoff calls #2-10 the "no nonsense" bird!


Notes from "Flight School" at Necedah NWR in Wisconsin:
Arrived in Wisconsin for flight school with other Cohort #1 chicks on June 30 at 57 days old. H
e will live together with the other Cohort #1 chicks at the North pen until all the chicks of the Class of 2010 are later joined in one large group.

Chicks #2-10 and #3-10 started with a bad habit of refusing to come out of the wet pen (the pond inside the pen) for training. Handlers had to coax and bribe them with treats to come out, and sometimes it didn't work. He was not too interested in flying at first. But one night Geoff put all the birds in the dry pen. With no pond to keep them happily inside, these two chicks came out to play with the trike when it appeared for training, and did great. Chicks #2-10 and #3-10 were mostly last, but they still followed the pilot in the trike. They ran behind as the trike taxied, flapping their wings and building their flight muscles, almost ready to rise a little bit off the ground. On August 3, chick #2-10 and buddies #1-10 and #3-10 flew around with the ultralight plane in a big circle.

He wasn’t terribly interested in flying at first but became more open to the idea after seeing how much fun it is!

"Says Geoff, "Chick#2-10 puts more value on his solitude and doing his own thing. And anyone who gets in the way of that has made themselves an enemy. He won’t take guff for long and is quick to throw his weight around. At Patuxent we used him to give two other chicks (including #16-10) a lesson in givingn up their thuggish ways. Lately, he’s grown more attached to the costume. He will go over to greet it in the pen, rather than linger in the wet pen like he normally does."

In late September when the two cohorts were mingled on the runway for the first few times, #2-10 held onto his undefeated title When #16-10 and #17-10 went on their rampagesand tore after every bird in cohort one. Male #2 never took any guff from her before, and wasn't going to take any guff from her now. He's still top bird!

October 8: This take-off was meant to be the migration departure, but when they met with headwinds aloft, the pilots decided it would be too tough to lead the youngs birds the whole 23 miles to stopover #1. They turned it into a training flight instead. Crane #2-10 had already decided that! He dropped out not too far into the flight and returned to the pen he just left, only to be encouraged by the Swamp Monster to get airborne again. He had to be located, crated, and transported back to the pen where his flockmates had landed.

First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane: Chick #2-10 left Necedah NWR on his first migration on October 10, 2010 but turned back shortly after take off. He did not fly any of the 23-mile distance on Day 1, but made the trip in a crate by road. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #2-10 below.

Day 2 (Oct. 11): The birds launched with the ultralights but #2 dropped out and refused to take off again.Several others had troubles too. The pilots turned back and put the birds in their pen to try again tomorrow, weather permitting. Until #2's wing heals, he needs to migrate in a crate. Trish and Geoff go to the pen early to put him in the crate before the pilots come. All the other chicks peep excitedly, as if to say: “Let’s go, we’re tired of standing around in this pen all day!!” But this time #2 got away from Trish before she got him in the crate: "I stayed calm and walked over towards #2 with a grape, but with his newfound freedom, he kept just ahead of me. Geoff came over to help, to no avail. If we got too close, #2 would run, flapping those beautiful wings, and cruise across the runway. With the pilots approaching, I radioed, despair in my voice, “Ground crew to Air Crew. #2 got away from me. He is not in the crate.” They finally got him, but only after the ultralights left the scene on what turned out to be a turn-back day.

Day 9 (Oct. 18): He was crated and driven to this stop yesterday because of a wing abrasion, and today crane #2-10 was one of the five birds that were late coming out of the pen. Joe flew in to pick them up. Four followed him but #2 turned away and landed away from the pen. Trish and Geoff crated #2-10 and he made the trip across the Wisconsin border by road.

Troubles? By now #2 has travelled a lot of miles by road. Worse, Geoff said, "Even with a healed-up wing he showed little interest in following the trike. Everyone including myself now suspects there may be a behavioral problem afoot. Before we left Necedah he was always low bird on the totem pole while they were in the air. It wasn’t uncommon to see him drop out and land on the runway after five or ten minutes of training. Brooke suspects he might be uneasy with flying with the trike. Considering this is the same, no-nonsense, take-crap-from-nobody bird who used to knock sense back into #11 and #16, I can’t help but be a little puzzled by that. Perhaps throwing your weight around with ten other birds isn’t so easy when you don’t have both feet on the ground. But I’m not giving up on number 2 yet. He has flown before, and we can surely make him fly again. Brooke hopes that if we can fly him by himself next time we fly, he might be more interested in staying airborne. I think that’s a swell idea, since that’s how we got him to Lasky Field back in Necedah. Maybe if he doesn’t have to worry about fighting with 10 other birds for a spot next to the trike he’ll hit his groove. If nothing else, I just hope he learned not to run and flap around the pen like a wild thing. Not unless he wants to bang that wing up again."

Oct. 27: It has been way too windy for the team to try flying #2-10 by himself to see how he'll do. (He would not leave the pen without all the other birds the last time they tried that.) Pilot Joe Duff is beginning to wonder if #2 has physical problem that can't be seen, but he admits he could be wrong about that idea. If he won't fly with the ultralight and other birds, he will have to be removed from the Class of 2010 and transferred to a zoo. If that happens, Joe will recommend that #2 be radiographed (x-rayed) to see if there is indeed a reason why he's not flying and following like he should. At least then they would know the facts. And if no problem is revealed, he will have better chances of a long life if he's safe in a zoo. Everyone is waiting to see what happens the next time the weather lets them fly!

Day 22, Oct. 31: Crane #2 made the journey to LaSalle County in a crate by road. But what a story! After the other ten birds had taken off, today's plan was for Brooke to turn back and try to encourage #2-10 to fly with him. They would see if , he would be willing to follow with all his buddies gone. The team could learn if his problem was physical or psychological. That part of the plan didn’t work so well. Here's why:
It seems that overnight, or more likely, early this morning, number 2 became the target of aggression. When the ground crew showed up at the pen, he was being chased by two other birds. He was pacing to get out and abrading his wings on the fence. Running away is a submissive behavior and will only make things worse, and he was paying the price. He had a bit of blood on him and, in the bird world, that made him a target. So after an eventful morning avoiding his enemies, then being examined by handlers and subsequently pushed into a crate, #2-10 wasn’t in the mood to going flying with the trike. The team wait and find another opportunity to test his willingness or ability to migrate.

Day 23, Nov. 1: Today is the day! At today's takeoff, Brooke flew past with 9 cranes, followed by Richard with 2 birds. YES! Crane #2-10 is flying! Joe followed behind in the chase position, ready to lend a wing to any tired cranes. Brooke wrote: "Richard used his magic along with some of Geoff’s and Trish’s to coax #2 and #3 into the air, onto his wing and on course. He fought the battle to keep #2 airborne for over two hours when the morning's awakening thermals rose to rough up the air.
Discouraged, #2 and #3 landed and Richard landed nearby as Walt and Ali in the tracking van pulled into view to lend assistance. Richard got #3 airborne but #2 had enough of flying for one day. Walt and Ali retrieved the little fellow and returned him to his box while Richard continued the journey." But he made it 44.5 miles on his own! Everyone hopes the flying experience will inspire him for the next leg of the migration. Go, #2-10!

Joe later said, "I think the fact that he was alone except for his buddy, number 3 encouraged him to fly." When he dropped out alone, he was freaked out. But for the first time Joe is optimistic that #2-10 will eventually migrate. "Knowing he can fly if he wants to might be grounds for getting him to Florida one way or another."

Day 27, Nov. 6: Well, today he didn't want to fly. The other ten took off with Richard. Brooke went back to see if #2 would take off and fly alone with Brooke's ultralight, but he only wanted to go back to his pen today. He made this leg of the migration in a crate.

Exercise Day, Nov. 12: As the birds looped around the pen on this exercise day, #2-10 landed off in a nearby field and just wandered around. He had flown with the rest of the birds for no more than a minute or two before he either got tired or lost interest. Costumed Geoff went to lead him back over toward the runway. "I think he was happy to see his ‘daddy’ come get him. But I was silently wondering what happened to the #2-10 who, with buddy 3-10, left LaSalle County in the dust on a great flight."

Geoff noticed that the birds all took off from the pen with a running start, flapping their wings. Just before they took off, they were gliding five or six feet off the ground. Bird #2-10 followed those initial two steps, but never actually got off the ground that first time. He did the same thing again once Geoff retrieved him from the bean field; he ran and flapped his wings, but without getting lift off. He flew again with the rest of birds one more time before the team put them back in the pen. But Geoff had to walk #2-10 back to the pen after he once again lost interest in flying and landed elsewhere.

Geoff wrote: "This bird’s outlook keeps getting bleaker every time we let him out of the pen. He won’t fly with the rest of the flock. Once, he got so spooked that he wouldn’t even take comfort in the costume. When we tried holding him back and flying him on his own at the last stop, he wouldn’t fly. No one wants to give up on him, including me. But he is quickly running through his options. So far, his migration route looks like the four corners on his wooden crate." The team is "singing the #2-10 blues." What will happen next?

Day 38, Nov. 16: The team gave #2-10 another chance to take off and follow. He surprised them when he circled around with them all a few times as they slowly gained altitude. But it didn't last. He soon broke off and began his descent. He turned many of the birds back with him. As the pilots passed over the pen one more time, the swamp monsters discouraged any of the birds from landing.
From 100 feet above Joe collected 10 birds that were generally following #2-10 and watched as he approached a tall, leafless tree line—not good! "I was shocked when he didn’t turn away, but instead made a desperate and foolish attempt to climb," reported Joe. "Then he hit the top branches and tumbled through like a white paper bag full of rocks. He hit the ground spread eagle as I passed over, but by the time we turned around, he was already out of sight. We found out later that he miraculously escaped injury but once again had to make the trip in a crate." WHAT NEXT??!

Day 39, Nov. 17: Another fly day! Seven birds conformed to the order of the day while three turned back, and #2 did his usual routine: He landed in a nearby field to await later capture and his ride in the box.

Day 48, Nov. 26: #2-10 was crated prior to launch so that he wouldn't convince the others to turn back. He was driven the 116 miles of this double-leg migration day.

Day 53, Dec. 1: Today #2-10 was transported to a Nashville veterinary clinic for an exam to see if there was a reason why he didn't want to fly. Doctors had to follow the rules of turning off phones, removing any dogs from teh clinic so they wouldn't bark, wearing a baggy white costume and helmet, and keeping silent. But finally we know the problem: Crane #2-10 has a torn tendon in his wing. See newspaper article.

The crane experts of WCEP decided that he would be returned to U.S.G.S. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Brave #2 flew only 40 miles of the more than 800 air miles logged by the Class of 2010 to their stop in Chilton County, Alabama, where he was crated for his last road trip on December 5. Brooke and Richard went out to the pen to separate #2 from his classmates. They walked him away from the pen and into the crate hidden from sight of the rest of the Class of 2010. Within minutes, Robert Doyle and Jane Chandler pulled out with #2 in the back of the U.S.G.S. Patuxent van. They drove 13 hours straight through to Laurel, Maryland and #2-10's new home.

Last updated: 12/06/10


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