Migration Highlights
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Fall 2011
Target date for departure
October 8, 2011
Actual date of departure
October 9, 2011
Number of birds on departure date
Number of birds surviving fall migration
10 (incl. now-wild #2)
Date migration ends
February 4, 2012
Total days of fall migration
119 (see NOTES)
Total miles flown
707 (Cut short; see NOTES)
Days on Wintering Grounds (Wheeler NWR, not the planned destination in Florida) 69 (April 12, 2012 departure)
Number of birds surviving spring migration


  • For the first time since ultralight-led migration began in 2001, the migration was cut short and halted when the birds themselves decided in Alabama that they were done migrating. They finished the migration by road, being transported to winter at Alabama's Wheeler NWR—and NOT in Florida as planned. It was 119 days after the young cranes departed Wisconsin.
  • *For the first time since ultralight-led migration began, one of the birds (#2-11) got away and joined a wild flock of sandhill cranes. She successfully completed fall migration by following them to Florida.
  • This ultralight-led migration became the longest up until then, due to many weather delays as well as a time out for the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to investigate and grant a waiver for Operation Migration pilots to fly this type of aircraft.
  • On average, the first five ultralight-led migrations took 55 days from start to finish. By comparison, the second five fall journeys averaged 85 days, the equivalent of an extra month. The trend toward ever-longer migrations is continuing.