Comparing Ultralight-Led Migrations

Photo: Wayne Kryduba
Hatch Year of birds



Target date for departure

October 13

Oct. 7 and then Oct. 10

October 8
October 9
Oct 10 and then Oct. 14
Actual departure

October 17

October 13

October 16
October 10
Oct. 14
Oct. 5
Number of birds at takeoff



20 18
Number of planes

4: lead, chase, & scout ultralights and one top cover

5: four ultralights and one top cover
5: four ultralights and one top cover
 5: four ultralights and one top cover
6 5: four ultralights and one top cover
Journey's end

Dec. 3

Nov. 30

Dec. 8
Dec. 12
Dec. 13 Dec. 19
Number of birds reaching Florida Winter Pen



13 (see #406)
19 (see #526)  
Total days en route



61 78
Number of no-fly days (grounded or turned back)



34 (includes 4 days when they turned back and made no progress)
Number of actual flight days (progress made)



Longest flight

94.7 miles


2 hours 15 minutes

3 hours 4 minutes (200 miles--covering most of GA. New record!)
2 hours 58 minutes (157 miles covered)
2 hours 14 minutes (116.3 miles)
Shortest flight

38 minutes

44 minutes

41 minutes
  43 minutes
32 minutes
Total Miles South (*after OM's final adjustments)



Number of birds surviving winter/returning to Wisconsin



16 survived; 12 returned to WI
19 survived;
16 returned to Wisconsin
0 survived
Days on Wintering Grounds
 117 days *
107 days**
106 days  --


Two extra special chicks made their first migrations this fall: Chick #602 is the first chick hatched from an egg laid by parents in the Eastern Flock. Chick W1-06 is the first wild-hatched chick. She made her migration the normal way—with her parents to teach her the route.

It took 10 weeks and 3 days to reach Florida from Wisconsin. The team covered 1234 miles and logged 32 hours and 44 minutes in the air.

For only the second time in the six years of the project, ALL of the birds in the ultralight-led cohort arrived safely in Florida.

The migration leg flown on October 24 (from the 4th to the 5th Stopover) was the first day no birds dropped out, or turned back, or got crated.

They flew 3 days in a row and reached Washington County, the final stop in Kentucky, ONE DAY AHEAD of last year's arrival date there. They crossed Kentucky in just 4 days.

On Nov. 11 (day 38) they tied their all-time record for the most number of down-days in one place: 8 days, set in 2005 in Morgan County, Indiana. But they set a new record for down days when they were in Cumberland County, TN for 9 days before leaving on Day 59.

The crane-kids flew exceptionally well; after leaving southern Wisconsin, no birds dropped out and needed to be crated until they tried to cross the Cumberland Ridge. Then one bird (#612) dropped out and had to be crated and driven on that difficult flight.

They were able to skip over a stop and go on to the next on only ONE day.

Unlike last year, all 4 DAR birds successfully migrated to Florida this year for the first time. They all arrived the same day, Dec. 8.

The First Family completed their migration Dec. 9, beating the ultralights and 18 chicks by 10 days!

After landing Dec. 19 at the temporary layover site, they took their last flight with the ultralight to reach the main wintering site (Chassahowitzka NWR) on January 11 and 12.

  • * In 2003, 117 days is the average of two numbers (Group A - 113 days, Group B - 121 days).
  • **In 2004, 107 days is the average of two numbers (11 cranes stayed 104 days and 1 crane stayed 110 days). Chick #418, who was not led by ultralight but left alone to go south with older cranes, stayed 129 days.
  • Read NOTES (scroll to bottom) on previous migrations here: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

Journey North is pleased to feature this educational adventure made possible by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP).

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