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

Back to Meet the Cranes 2014

Crane chick #14-08 as a baby
Image: Operation Migration

Crane # 8-14
Date Hatched May 19, 2014
Gender Female
Left Leg Right Leg


Personality and Training: Crane chick #8-14 hatched May 19. At 6 days of age, she was led out to see the trike (the tiny aircraft without its wing) for the first time. She wasn't so confident once she was in Wisconsin for Flight School: On July 11, the day the chicks saw the large wing attached to the aircraft for the very first time, she was the only one who had to be coaxed out of the enclosure and onto the training strip to join her flock mates in chasing after the plane. But July 12, she joined in like a pro as all seven chicks toddled and hopped behind the plane as it taxied down the grassy strip. But she developed the habit of being shy of the gate, and needed to be coaxed out of the chicks' enclosure (along with chick #10). The team hopes she gives up this habit!


The three youngest chicks, taken on June13
Three Youngest
Image: Operation Migration
July 7 at Patuxent WRC in Maryland
July 7, 2014
Image: Operation Migration
Arrival in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Arrival!
Image: Tom Schultz

Chick #8 in Wisconsin on July 10
Exploring Wisconsin
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
Despite the downtime due to recent poor weather, all the girls did great flying with the aircraft, logging over 15 minutes of air time by the week of August 25!
The "girls" flying with the aircraft Sept. 28
Flying Longer
Image: Tom Schultz

But #8 is a little more easily enticed than #7 when it comes time to leave the wet pen. She may come right up to the "costume" that has grapes to give out! Like #8, she i is fairly solitary and independent and prefers to be left alone. She's a good flyer!

October 6, 2014: Crane #8 is BIG. "She prefers grapes to cranberries and has reached the dominant stage where she will not accept a grape directly from the puppet. She'll only eat it if you toss it on the ground, says Heather.

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

October 10, 2014: Migration Day 1! The six girls took off for their first migration stop. About 2 miles out, #8-14 got tired and dropped back, so Richard flew in so she could fly along his wing. She made it to the first stopover, miles. Hooray!

October 11, 2014: Day 2 Cranes #3-14 and #8-14 started off great, but the rest of the birds turned back. Instead of continuing the 14 miles to stop #2 with the two flying birds, the pilot turned back to Stopover #1 again and landed. The two were crated, along with #4-14, and driven to the second Stopover Site in Marquette County. Meanwhile, the other four turned back to their training site and had to be crated and driven. It was a long and disappointing day for the team!

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! Whooping cranes #8 and #3 were the only ones to successfully fly the 28 miles to Columbia Co., Wisconsin in 42 minutes of flying. The other five dropped out and were crated and driven to Stopover #3.
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. This photo shows #8 turning back. Then Richard flew in to intercept her and she flew the whole way with Richard today. Crane #8 gets picked up by Ricahrd as she tries to turn back.
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. This 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 #8 and all the others except #4 and #10, who were held back because they drop out shortly 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! The five following Joe had to work hard in headwinds and heat while #7 hogged the "sweet spot" and had an easy flight. Cranes #4 and #10 flew with Brooke's plane on their first real flight of the migration. Five of the cranes follow Joe's plane Dec. 2.
December 3, 2014: Day 55 Sixty-four miles to Pike County, ALABAMA! During the flight, the pilots noticed #8 was missing two or three primary feathers on her left side. She was panting from the warmer air but she moved to Joe's left wing so she was getting lots of benefit from the wing's air current. But it was not long until #7-14 moved over and stole that sweet spot from #8. Even though #7 made #8's flight harder, everyone made it 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 they can be truly wild cranes—flying free and wary of people and all things human. Team member Colleen and pilot Brooke Pennypacker will watch over the youngsters during the their first winter of freedom on the wintering grounds.
Cranes 2,3,7,8 and 9 on final flightFinal Flight
Image: Karen Wiles

Colleen shows the birds the feeding stations after they've been released.Dec. 23: Freedom!
Image: Colleen Chase

crane 8's new leg bands
Image: Operation Migration
Crane #8-14 dancing
#8: Tiny Dancer
Beverly Paulan
Spring 2015: First Unaided Spring Migration North  
Departed St. Marks with #5-12 and the other four remaining juveniles in the Class of 2014 on April 3! Everyone hopes these crane-kids, who have a gap in their knowledge of the migration route between Tennessee and Wisconsin due to being trucked most of the way, will stick with #5-12. He led them and stayed with them into northern Illinois but left them there on April 8 (click on map). While the youngsters stayed in that location due to stormy weather, Brooke and Colleen monitored them from a safe distance so as not to spook them. The cranes wandered when weather permitted, and landed at Union County, Kentucky—one of their migration stops on the journey south—in the week ending April 25. They seem to be restless and know they need to migrate, but can't "find north." The team decided it was time to help them get home.

On May 2, Brooke and Colleen captured 8, 9 and 10 (the other two got separated from them in stormy weather and weren't immediately accessible). The birds were crated, driven during the night, and released on White River Marsh on May 4, 2015. HOME!The three were still together the end of May, in Columbia County and wandered a bit in the area.

Then, a surprising thing happened. Female #8-14 was often seen seen with females 9-14 and 10-14, and she was with them June 17 on the grass training strip at White River Marsh. They next bounced to Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. From there, young 8-14 headed south! By July 22 the Operation MIgration team gets PTT data on her. They were astonished that by July 22 she had moved in Livingston County to a spot within a 1/4 mile of the team's southward migration stop—which she has never visited! She spent about a month there and for several days was on the actual stopover location even though she did not visit there last fall on her first southward migration. Later that month she began heading north again and returned to Dodge County, Wisconsin, south of the Horicon marsh area. In early September moved SW to Dane County, WI.

Of all of the 2014 chort, #8-14 definitely has logged the most air miles!

Cranes #8, 9 and 10 at White River Marsh, Wisconsin, May 4, 2015
Still Dancing!

Fall 2015: First Unaided Fall Migration South: Eyes are on the Class of 2014 to see whether they will find their way south after missing large segments of their first journey south (see above).

Fall 2015: A PTT signal from #8-14 placed her in Hamilton County, Tennessee in late November. On Nov. 29 a PTT signal showed her in Highlands County, FLORIDA! This is way south of St. Marks NWR, but she good news is that she definitely knows the way to Florida and will be able to navigate back to Wisconsin next spring. Well done!

Spring/Summer 2016: Female 8-14 finally started on April 7 from her wintering grounds near Highlands County, Florida. She flew about 190 miles to the northwest on day 1 of her journey north. By April 10, her location was in Warren County, Kentucky. She was back in Dane County, Wisconsin, by April 16. At the end of May, she surprised crane cam watchers when she flew back to White River Marsh ( the training marsh), where she sometimes interacted with male #5-12. She was still there in June, often by herself, but she was observed near or with with male #5-12 in July and August. WCEP team members hoped these two would find each other, pair up and stay together! They were together a short time, but female 8-14 paired with male 4-13 after he drove off the unlucky male #5-12.
Male 5-12 (left) and female 8-14 (right) in August 2016
Female 8-14, on the right
Doug Pellerin

Fall 2016: At the end of October, female #8-14 was still with her newest mate, male #4-13, in Green Lake Co, WI.

On Nov. 6, young PR30-16 joined them to say hello and take a flight together (see photo), but then left them to roost with his alloparents, the other resident pair in White River Marsh.

The new pair was still in Green Lake County, WI on Nov. 18 but on On November 25, they were confirmed on the wintering grounds at St. Marks NWR in Florida!

male 4-13 and new mate 8-14
New mates #4-13 and 8-14
Heather Ray

Spring 2017: March 6, 2017 brought good migration weather, and #8-14 and her new mate #4-13 left St. Marks NWR on their northward migration! PTT hits put her in Lowndes County, GA on the same day. Her remains were collected on March 26th and the cause of death is not yet determined.


Last Updated: 4/03/2017