Meet the Class of 2014 Whooping Cranes
Hatch-year 2013 of the Eastern Flock

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #4-14 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 4-14
Date Hatched May 15, 2014
Gender Male
Left Leg Right Leg

Temporary leg band: green

Personality and Training: Crane chick #4-14 was dubbed "Peanut" by Brooke soon after hatching because he was so small. "I swear he’s a mouse disguised as a crane chick!" exclaimed Brooke, who was one of his daily caretakers. This chick turned out to be the ONLY male in the Class of 2014!

Chick #4 got a late start due to health problems, but soon he was back in the lineup for ground school training. He had his first On/Off trike engine conditioning session May 25 and wasn't scared at all. Soon he was following the trike around the circle pen along with the other six chicks, all girls. He joined right in. See what happened as his training unfolded:

July 7
July 7
Image: Operation Migration
Arrival day in Wisconsin!
Wisconsin Arrival
Image: Tom Schultz

#4 checks out the water basin at White River Marsh
Image: Doug Pellerin

#4 on july 10
July 10
Image: Doug Pellerin
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Flight School Starts
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
First 2-minute flight!
Now Flying!
Image: Ruth Peterson
This year's only male crane, #4-14 developed a limp Aug. 26 while playing in the winds during a strong storm the day before. He was on the disabled list to allow it to heal. On some days the team let him out on the runway for exercise. Everybody just loves his good-natured ways and hopes his leg heals in time for migration.
Crane #4 gets entertained by the costume and some floating mealworms.
Disabled List
Image: Tom Schultz

Crane #4's leg has not healed as quickly as hoped and was re- injured a week ago as he played on the runway. He has been patient and brave and good-natured, even when the doctor put a leg brace on him September 19. He was grounded for about 3 weeks. During that time the team let him out for exercise on days when it's too windy for the aircraft to fly to help build muscles and endurance.

#4 with hjis new hinged leg brace to help his leg heal
Leg Brace
Image: Operation Migration
Crane # lands after being let out of confinement
Image: Tom Schultz
#4 lands in the marsh on Sep. 28
In the Marsh
Image: Tom Schultz
#4 preens his new radio transmitter
Brace Off, Band On
Image: Operation Migration

October 6: Weather won't permit the migration to begin to day, but the team hopes to give #4 a private training session so he gets the benefit of the air currents off the wing to help his flight as he gains endurance. How will he do on migration? Heather says: "The team may fly the six girls to the first migration stop, then come back and get him so he has his own aircraft. If he can't make the entire five miles, we'll have to crate him, but he was a great follower prior to his hock injury so we're hopeful he still is!"

Crane #4 HATES puppets but he's very docile to the costume. Lke a little puppy, he will will follow the costume anywhere.

Crane # lands after being let out of confinement
Image: Tom Schultz
#4 with his new leg band
New Band
Image: Heather Ray
Older cranes #4-12 and 5-12 show up to stall Peanut's training time alone with the airplane and pilot.
Training Foiled
Image: Colleen Chase
#4 attacks his first pumpkin
First Pumpkin
Image: Doug Pellerin
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South
October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. The plan was for the aircraft to return for Peanut (#4) so he could have the wing to himself for extra help in flight. By the time the plane returned, the air had gotten bumpy. Crane #4 tried his best before he dropped out after flying 7 minutes. It was the longest he'd flown in over a month! He was boxed up to finish the short distance to Stopover #1 where his flockmates waited. Migration is underway! October 10 migration departure!
October 11, 2014: Day 2 At the first stopover site and for the first time since his injury, Peanut was released to fly with the other six cranes. He landed after a couple of circuits of flying. He wasn't the only one that didn't fly the distance to stopver #2 today. None of the others cooperated to do that either, and all were crated and driven the 14 miles to Marquette County. Eventually they'll get used to the drill---hang in there! Crane #4

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.

Richard later said the second bird from the wing was Peanut, #4-14, making a great start!

Attempted flight on Oct 16 with all 7 birds taking off
October 26, 2014: Day 17 Finally a fly day! All seven took off, but cranes #3 and #8 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five that dropped out were crated and driven to Stopover #3. Leg issues may still be bothering #4, but he's trying!
November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #4 took off with the group just fine, but none of them stuck with the plane very long. All dropped out and had to be captured and crated back to their enclosure in Columbia County, Wisconsin.
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. Thiis 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, 2014: Day 47 Cranes #4 and #10 were held back today while all the others flew 65 miles with Joe's plane. All seven birds are now in Hardin County, TN. with 9 more stops to go!