Meet the Class of 2011 Whooping Cranes!
Hatch-year 2011 of the Eastern Flock

Crane #3-11

Date Hatched

May 4, 2011



Egg Source

Eastern Flock (rescued egg from nest of #309 and #403)

Leg Bands

(Attached after reaching Florida)

Left Leg Right Leg
(VHF radio transmitter)

Temporary migration band: red

  • 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
Geoff started out thinking #3 was the brains of the flock "It doesn’t take him long to catch onto the swing of things. For instance, it didn’t take him long to figure out how to drink. Back when he was in the ICU, he would drink out of the gold bowl at least five times a session. Once he got to his own pen, he started drinking out of the small jug like a pro. One time I counted him gulping down 20 sips of water. Usually, it’s a trial to get a chick to drink half that much. I think we can expect good things from this kid."

But it wasn't long before Brooke had nicknamed him "Squeaker." Even when a costumed caretaker was keeping him company, #3 peeped or paced. Brooke and Geoff could usually identify #3-11 because he was pacing under the plastic crane decoy. (Still, he still paused to forage or catch a drink) To be fair, all the kids freaked out a little at one point or another, either because they heard rifles going off at nearby Fort Meade, or adult birds in the next pens over were alarm calling. But 3-11 doesn’t calm down often. He gets the other birds nervously nervously peeping too if a costumed person doesn’t come back by him. Geoff, Brooke and Caleb hope #3 will get better as the days go by. He's a worrywart!
#1-11 and #3-11 take a dip.

By mid June he was finally brave enough to take a dip in the large pond. This is important for cooling off on hot days. He showed a little more independence when the whole group was together. Geoff was concerned that #3's worrisome and clingy attitude would hold the group up and keep them from maturing sooner, but there are a few hopeful signs of progress.


Notes from "Flight School" at White River Marsh in Wisconsin:
Chick #3-11 arrived in Wisconsin with his flock mates in the Class of 2011 on June 28. He made normal progress in following the trike as it taxied on the ground, and was getting off the ground a bit in July. But by mid August, he was in the group of 6-7 birds who still were not getting airborne behind the ultralight plane. This group usually slammed on their brakes and stayed on the runway as soon as the trike took off to the air. They'd rather "chill" at the end of the runway than take off and follow! The team hoped for a surge of progress soon, and they got it.

By the end of August, all ten could get airborne with the trike. On August 27, #3 was one of the four cranes that turned back, even after bribes and treats to make him follow. A few of the chicks always turn back. But the surprising thing about #3 is that he still has no interest in leaving the runway, even if he takes off with the others. What is he thinking?

Well, he changed his tune in September. HE's now one of the cranes to consistently take off with the trike! The team dubbed this crane the "gardener," as he loves to probe and peck at the shrubbery in the wet pen.

Crane #3 challenged the injured #1, but soon discovered that #1 still wants to be top crane. When the two birds locked eyes, #3 was first to look away in submission.
Image: Doug Pellerin

Migration departure week: Geoff sums up crane #3-11: "He's almost a '1-11 Lite.' Since he's one of our older and bigger birds, he's one of the more dominant ones. However, he's not as pecky as 1-11 is. Deep down though, I think #3 is the bird who most wants to de-throne 1-11. As I stated before, there were a couple of times he challenged #1's right to rule a couple times after #1's traumatic experience of getting lost in the marsh. None of his challenges panned out, but #3 is the only one I know of who even attempted a coup. The other birds kept well away from him the whole time.

"Another similarity between #3 and #1 is that #3, too, has a fairly narrow comfort zone, which happens to be on the runway. It wasn't often we got to see him seriously try to fly with the aces like 2-11 or 7-11. But unlike 1-11, #3 seems to be finally coming out of that shell. The past couple of sessions, he flew with rest of the birds for at least ten minutes each time. So he's at least willing to try when the mood catches him—though he certainly had a slow, stagnant start. I hope he has no ambitions of ousting 2-11 or 7-11 as top flier. I want to see #3 fly, but the last thing we need is a little conspirator."


First Migration South, Led by Ultralight Airplane:

Crane #3-11 did not make it to the first stopover on Day 1 or Day 2. Instead, he (and the other 4 males in the class of 2011) had to be crated and driven on Davy 3 after they again failed to fly. Find day-by-day news about the flock's migration and read more about #3-11 below.

Oct. 22, Day 14: Crane #3 was one of five birds that had to be crated and driven to the next stopover because they wouldn't fly and follow the ultralight.

Oct. 28, Day 20: Crane #3 (along with #12) stuck with Brooke's ultralight the whole flight today, even after #7 turned around and left them.

Oct. 29, Day 21: Crane #3—and all nine other birds in the Class of 2011—flew the distance today! It's the first day of the migration for the whole group to go the whole way. (The class is down to nine because missing crane #2-11 turned up with a big flock of wild sandhills.)

Nov. 20, Day 43: After 15 down days, the birds and trikes finally got to fly again! Crane #3 blasted out of the pen and flew one hour and 17 minutes with Richard's plane to Piatt County, IL.

February 4, 2012: The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 became the first to finish their migration in a road vehicle. They were crated at the travel pen in Winston County, Alabama and driven to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge to finish the winter and learn to be independent. Banding took place February 8. Brooke will watch over them as they slowly become wild and free. Check this bio page for further news in the life of of crane #3-11!

Spring 2012: First Unaided Migration North:
The nine cranes in the ultralight-led Class of 2011 ALL began their first journey north together from Wheeler NWR in Alabama on April 12 at 11:00 a.m. Three of the birds (#4, #7, and #9) are wearing PTT units so they can be tracked by satellite. GPS data showed they roosted the first night only 10 miles from their journey south stopover site in Union County, Kentucky. On their first full day of migration they covered about 231 miles and made it to Gallatin County, Illinois. PTT data indicate an April 15th daytime location in Wayne Co., IL for Whooping crane #9-11. Were they all together? Data from the same evening have cranes #4 and #7 at a roost location in Bureau County, IL. "It is possible that the nine cranes are still traveling as a group, however, we have no way of confirming this," said Operation Migration's Heather Ray. They did not travel April 16. By April 19 tracker Eva confirmed: The 9 ultra-light birds have split into at least two groups. When ithe birds were closer to their 'home" at Wisconsin's White River Marsh, signals from cranes 3-11 and 6-11 were picked up near # 4-11, whose PTT signals April 20 put her in southern Columbia County, Wisconsin— a short distance south of White River and very near to the third migration stopover used on the Journey South. Hooray!

Whooping cranes 3, 4, and 6-11 are traveling together, as the WCEP tracking team detected radio signals from all three at the same location. It was later learned that crane #5 was also with this group. The group with #3, #4, #5, and #6 arrived in southern Columbia County, WI., approximately 40 miles south of the White River Marsh SWA on April 20, eight days after departing the Wheeler NWR where they wintered. WELL DONE! By May 14 (photo below) they had not moved much and were still together. Hardly any sign remains of their rust-colored chick feathers. On May 31 a citizen scientist sent a photo of the four of them, still together, in Green Lake County, WI. This location is less than 3 miles from where they took their first flights with Operation Migration's aircraft last summer.

Cranes 3,4,5, and 6-11 after completing their first spring migration back to Wisconsin

Fall 2012: Migrated south to Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

Spring 2013: Completed migration back to Wisconsin on March 29 together with #4, #5 and #6 from his 2011 cohort.

Fall 2013: Migrated to Wheeler NWR in Alabama with other whoopers.

Spring 2014: Crane # 3-11, 4-11, 17-11, 19-11, pair #26-09 & 27-06 and DAR 38-09 began migration from the Wheeler NWR in Alabama on 15-18 February. This large group was reported in Gibson County, Indiana, on 21 February. They then moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, by the next day and were seen with an eighth (and unknown) bird that might be #26-10. Crane #3-11 remained in Illinios/Indiana until at least early March 2014. He was found in Adams County, Wisconsin, the end of March and remained at this location through at least late May. He moved to a new location in Adams County by early June and began associating with #7-12 at this location in mid-July. The two were still there in early October.

Fall 2014: Crane #3-11 departed Oct. 31 from Adams County, WI to migrate south to Knox County, Indiana with #7-12, #24-13 (from the 2013 parent-reared chicks) and #38-09 DAR. Pair #29-08 and #W3-10 joined this group by 18 November and #18-09 joined them by 23 November. By early January, up to 11 Whooping cranes were associating in this area.

Spring 2015: Crane #3-11 was back in Wisconsin by the pilot Bev Paulan's aerial survey flight on March 25. He paired with a new mate, female #7-11. They nested in Adams County, Wisconsin. On May 28 the pair was seen with a new chick—and 1 egg still in the nest! On June 4 at least one chick was seen with the pair, but it did not survive the month.

Fall 2015: Crane #3-11 migrated with his mate to Indiana for the winter.

Spring 2016: Crane pair #3-11 and 7-11 returned to Adams County, Wisconsin, where they nested and hatched chick W5-16, first observed on May 12. As of July, the chick was no longer alive. 

Fall 2016: Crane pair #3-11 and 7-11 migrated in November to Green County, Indiana.

Spring 2017: Mate #3-11 and mate #7-11 returned to their territory in Adams County, Wisconsin and were nesting by early April. They hatched chick W5-17, shown in this photo taken on May 12. In sad news, chick W5-17 died/was lost by June 8.

W5-17 on May 12, 2017
Image: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR Pilot


Last updated: 7/3/17

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