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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #14-07 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 7-14
Date Hatched May 18, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg
   

Temporary migration leg band: orange
Backpack transmitter

Personality and Training: Crane chick #7-14 hatched May 18. She had splayed legs and a toe problem, but it was decided that since cranes in the wild don’t hitchhike with their toes, she was pronounced recovered after having the toes taped for a a while. She went out to see the trike May 25 and started her official ground school training soon after. She was a good follower!

These images help tell her story:

 

 

Circle pen training at Patuxent WRC
Circle Pen Training
Image: Operation Migration
 
Chick #7 on July 7
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
 
Arrival in Wisconsin
Arrival in Wisconsin!
Image: Tom Schultz
 
Chick #7 on training runway in Wisconsin
Flight School Starts
Image: Tom Schultz
 
Chicks and Costume on training strip
Feeling at Home
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
 
Crane #7's feathers are changing
Changing Feathers
Image: Tom Schultz
 
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz
 
September 16: Crane #7 was one of three cranes to get the new backpack transmitters used this year for the first time. "There are negatives to attaching anything to a free-flying bird, but the risk of injury is low, and there is a lot to be learned," writes Joe Duff.

On September 26, the backpack transmitters were removed from all three birds wearing them: 2-14, 7-14 and 9-14. The decision was made after the team had evidence that the backpack transmitters were inhibiting the cranes' normal flight ability. The next day, all sixcranes flew just great, and for a duration of 20 minutes and 9 seconds. Go cranes!

Crane with backpack transmitter
Backpack Transmitter
Image: Operation Migration
 

When #7 takes a grape from the crane puppet, she still takes the grape tenatively and always tries to wash it off first!

Team member Geoff says #7 and #8 are cut from the same cloth. Both are fairly solitary and independent. They both prefer to be left alone. "Crane #7 will flap her wings at me while #8 just keeps her distance from me. Neither bird likes being locked in the dry pen and will resist every step of the way if anyone tries to get them out of the wet pen."

Heather says #7 has very pretty eyes compared to the others!

Six cranes in training flight with aircraft
Seven Together Again!
Image: Heather Ray
Fall 2014: Ultralight-Guided Migration South October 10 migration departure!
Image: Operation Migration

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. Crane #7 flew the distance to Stopover #1: four miles.

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #2, 7, 9 and 10 took off but dismayed the team when they returned to their old White River Marsh training pensite instead of following the plane to Stopover #2. This has never happened in the team's past 13 seasons of leading cranes on migration! All were put in crates and driven to stop #2 in Marquette County, Wisconsin: 14 miles.

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! 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. Maybe #7 is still a bit set back from the time she was wearing the backpack transmitter.

November 3, 2014: Day 26 Crane #7-14 was in the perfect lineup on both of today's take-offs with Brooke and his aircraft. The birds, however, didn't want to climb and ended up dropping out, one by one. All were 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 best fliers, cranes #2, 3, 7 and 8, were in the first group while the others were left behind to wait their turn. In this photo Brooke appears over the horizon with the first group—on their way to Dane County, WI. Pilot Brooke takes off with four cranes.
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 Hooray! Crane #7 and all the others except #4 and #10, who were held back because they drop out soon after take-off, flew 65 miles with Joe's plane to Hardin County, TN.
November 26, 2014: Day 48 Sixty-seven miles to Winston Count, Alabama!
November 28, 2014: Day 50 Thanks to 15 mph tailwinds, they were able to skip right over another stop this morning to fly a total of 111 miles. In the 2 hours and 7 minutes they were airborne, they climbed to 5200 feet altitude. Thrilling!

December 2, 2014: Day 54 Forty-six miles to Lowndes County, Alabama—for all seven birds! They had to work hard in headwinds and heat. As usual, #7 was in lead. She dominates the sweet spot right behind the wingtip. Here she can glide along, hardly ever flapping her wings, while all the birds behind her must work ever harder. She annoys Joe by moving ahead of the wing and destroying the lift on one side, making Joe's job harder. Then she dropped below the wing and flew beside Joe. The other birds follow her like good "wing men." So, while she plays with the energy she saved, the other birds must struggle to keep up. Their beaks were open and they panted all the way. Today she pulled another prank: pulling on the string that holds in the wingtip batten. When she swooped in to pull the string with her beak, Joe dodged while the other four tried to follow her or him. Hard work for all!

Five of the cranes follow Joe's plane Dec. 2.
December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! Again today, five flew with Joe and two with Brooke. Crane #7 led again, and again her fooling around in the sweet spot made it harder for the other birds but all arrived safely. Cranes #2, 3, 7, 8 and 9 flying with Joe on Dec. 3.

December 9, 2014: Day 61 All seven cranes flew again this morning, covering 117 miles and crossing Georgia! Here they are in Decatur County, GA.with only two flights to go!

December 10, 2014: Day 62 Another good day! All seven cranes flew 33 miles to Leon County, FLORIDA in 47 minutes. They flew just shy of 2,000 feet altitude at a ground speed of 51 mph, thanks to a nice tailwind. Only 28 miles to go!

All seven in the pen after flying 117 miles to  Decatur County, Georgia
December 11, 2014: Day 63 This morning after a 28-mile flight lasting 50 minutes, the seven 7-month-old Whooping Cranes landed for the first time on their new winter home at St. Marks NWR in Florida! Soon, after they have their final health check and permanent legbands and transmitters, they can be truly wild cranes—flying free and wary of people and all things human.
Cranes 2,3,7,8 and 9 on final flightFinal Flight
Image: Karen Wiles