Fall Migration 2016 Looking Back 2001-2015

Going South!
December 14, 2016 by Jane Duden

Juvenile PR 30-16 and his alloparents on migration flight with Sandhill Cranes in December
Juvenile and his adoptive parents migrating with Sandhill Cranes over Chicago.
By Samuel B. Burckhardt, December 8, 2016

An arctic blast arrived in Wisconsin the night of December 6 and all of this year's 10 surviving parent-reared juveniles are finally off on their first journey south — or already at their winter homes. Hooray!

Traveling with adoptive parents
PR#30-16, the only chick in the Class of 2016 to be adopted by alloparents, started his first southward migration on December 7. Led by alloparents #4-12 and #3-14, the family was confirmed December 12 in Floyd County, GA, a distance of 700 miles from Wisconsin. Young PR#30-16 is the only one of the Class of 2016 without a remote tracking device. Luckily, “mom” (Crane #3-14) wears a satellite tracking device so the team was able confirm their location and rejoice that the family is still together. Will they stay, or will they continue to St. Marks NWR in Florida? We'll see.

Traveling as buddies, without adoptive parents
Buddies PR#29 and #39-16 left Wisconsin on December 8, making it to Kendall County, IL by that evening. By Dec. 13 they were in Dyer Co, TN, a distance of 550 miles in 5 days.

Juveniles PR#31 and #38-16 also departed Wisconsin on December 8. By Dec. 10 the two and traveled 450 miles and were in good habitat in Crittenden County, KY.

It remains to be seen if these four will fly farther south or remain where they are for the winter.

Traveling with Sandhill Cranes
Also on the move with Sandhill Cranes was lone juvenile PR#71-16, who left Marquette County, WI on Dec. 8 and made it Lake County, Indiana, southeast of Chicago. At this writing, her signals placed her in Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in northwest Indiana, along with thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes.

Moving further south
The first of the Class of 2016 to migrate, female PR #33-16, left Wisconsin Oct. 20 for a location in Iowa. In December she continued migration from Iowa to Meigs County, Tennessee, where many cranes spend the winter.

Arriving in a van
Late-released PR #70-16 alone remained in Wisconsin's snowy landscape until December 12. On that day he was captured for a health check up and the road trip to Wheeler NWR in Alabama. Early on December 14 he was released near PR #69-16, who had migrated to this wintering grounds with Sandhill Cranes in November. These two cranes knew each other in Wisconsin, so we like to think it was a happy reunion!

While the Class of 2016 lost three members and only one of the group was adopted by adult Whooping Cranes to form a family bond, all are all now acclimating to good crane habitats in warmer places after heading south. Operation Migration's mission becomes tracking the young cranes to take notes on interactions with other cranes and the types of habitat the birds are choosing. Even with their non-conventional start in life, will the Class of 2016 find their way back to Wisconsin in the spring? We will let you know. Until then, we wish them well over the winter, and safe return north in spring!