Common Crane

Common Crane

Eurasian crane

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Subclass
Infraclass
Superorder
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Grus grus
Population size
490-505 thou
Life Span
30-40 yrs
WEIGHT
3-6 kg
LENGTH
100-130 cm
WINGSPAN
180-240 cm

The Common crane is one of only four crane species not currently classified as threatened with extinction. It is a slate-grey large, stately bird. Its forehead and lores are blackish with a bare red crown and a white streak extending from behind the eyes to the upper back. The overall color is darkest on the back and rump and palest on the breast and wings. The juvenile has yellowish-brown tips to its body feathers and lacks the drooping wing feathers and the bright neck pattern of the adult, and has a fully feathered crown.

Distribution

Common cranes are found in the northern parts of Europe and across the Palearctic to Siberia. They are long-distance migrants wintering in northern Africa but also in southern Europe, western Asia, in the northern half of the Indian subcontinent, and in eastern China. Common cranes prefer to breed in boreal and taiga forests, mixed forests, treeless moors, on bogs, or on dwarf heather habitats, usually where small lakes or pools are also found. In some parts of their range, they breed in small, swampy openings amongst pine forests, steppe, and even semi-desert, so long as the water is near. In winter, Common cranes inhabit flooded areas, shallow sheltered bays, and swampy meadows. After migration, the birds winter regularly in open country, often on cultivated lands and sometimes also in savanna-like areas.

Common Crane habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Common cranes are fairly social birds while not breeding and can form flocks of up to 400 individuals during migration. These birds are active during the day spending many hours looking for prey. They may either forage on land or in shallow water, probing around with their bills for any edible organism. As with other cranes, all foraging (as well as drinking and roosting) is done in small groups, which may variously consist of pairs, family groups, or winter flocks. When feeling threatened, Common cranes jab with their bill hit with their wings, and kick with their feet. They nimbly avoid strikes against themselves by jumping into the air. In order to communicate with each other Common cranes use visual displays and various calls. They have a loud trumpeting call, given in flight and display. This call is piercing and can be heard from a considerable distance. The dancing of Common cranes has complex, social meanings and may occur at almost any time of year. Dancing may include bobs, bows, pirouettes, and stops. Aggressive displays may include ruffled wing feathers, throwing vegetation in the air, and pointing the bare red patch on their heads at each other.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Common cranes are omnivores, as are all cranes. They eat plant matter, including roots, rhizomes, tubers, stems, leaves, fruits, and seeds. They also commonly eat, when available, pond-weeds, heath berries, peas, potatoes, olives, acorns, cedar nuts, and pods of peanuts. Animal foods become more important during the breeding season and include insects, especially dragonflies, and also snails, earthworms, crabs, spiders, millipedes, woodlice, amphibians, rodents, and small birds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
May
INCUBATION PERIOD
30 days
BABY CARRYING
2 eggs
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2 eggs

Common cranes are monogamous and form strong pairs that stay together for several years. The courtship rituals are enacted by every pair each spring. They begin with a male following the female in a stately, march-like walk. The unison call consists of the female holding her head up and gradually lowering down as she calls out. The female calls out a high note and then the male follows with a longer scream in a similar posture. When nesting, Common cranes "paint" their bodies with mud or decaying vegetation, apparently in order to blend into their nesting environment. The nest is either in or very near shallow water, often with dense shore vegetation nearby, and may be used over several years. These birds lay eggs in May, though seldom will do so earlier or later. The clutch usually contains 2 eggs, rarely, 3 or 4. The incubation period is around 30 days and is done primarily by the female but occasionally by both parents. New hatchlings are generally quite helpless but are able to crawl away from danger within a few hours, can swim soon after hatching, and can run with their parents at 24 hours old. Young chicks use their wings to stabilize them while running, while by 9 weeks of age they can fly short distances. By the next breeding season, the previous years young often flock together. They usually become reproductively mature between 3 and 6 years of age.

Population

Population threats

The main threat to these graceful birds, and the primary reason for their decline in the Western Palearctic, comes from habitat loss and degradation, caused by dam construction, urbanization, agricultural expansion, and drainage of wetlands. Although Common cranes have adapted to human settlement in many areas, nest disturbance, continuing changes in land use, and collision with utility lines are still potential problems. Further threats may include persecution due to crop damage, pesticide poisoning, egg collection, and hunting.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Common crane is 490,000-504,999 individuals. The European population consists of 113,000-185,000 pairs, which equates to 225,000-370,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Every two years, before migration, adult Common cranes undergo a complete moult and remain flightless for 6 weeks, until the new feathers grow.
  • If humans approach the nest of a Common crane, both parents may engage in a distraction display but known ground predators (including domestic dogs) are always physically attacked almost immediately.
  • When sensing danger, chicks freeze, using their camouflaged brownish down to defend them beyond their fierce parents.
  • In Ireland, despite being extinct for over 200 years, the Common crane plays a very important part in Irish culture and folklore and so thus recent efforts to encourage it back to Ireland are received with much enthusiasm.
  • In the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat the Common crane is described in lots of folk songs. Like - a newly married woman (whose husband has gone to far away place for earning) will sing a song to crane to take a message to her husband and request to tell him to come home early.

References

1. Common Crane on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_crane
2. Common Crane on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22692146/86219168

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