Our Beautiful World

Asian Cranes, Page 2
Sarus Crane, Grus antigone  
Demoiselle crane, Anthropoides virgo
Hooded Crane, Grus monacha
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Sarus Crane, Grus antigone

The Sarus Crane, Grus antigone, is a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and
Australia. The tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 1.8 m, they are conspicuous and iconic species of open
wetlands. The Sarus Crane is easily distinguished from other cranes in the region by the overall grey colour and the contrasting
red head and upper neck. They forage on marshes and shallow wetlands for roots, tubers, insects, crustaceans and small
vertebrate prey. Like other cranes, they form long-lasting pair-bonds and maintain territories within which they perform territorial
and courtship displays that include loud trumpeting, leaps and dance-like movements.

In India they are considered symbols of marital fidelity, believed to mate for life and pine the loss of their mates even to the point
of starving to death. The main breeding season is during the rainy season, when the pair builds an enormous nest "island",
a circular platform of reeds and grasses nearly two metres in diameter and high enough to stay above the shallow water
surrounding it. Sarus Crane numbers have declined greatly in the last century and it has been estimated that the current
population is a tenth or less (perhaps 2.5%) of the numbers that existed in the 1850s. The stronghold of the species is India,
where it is traditionally revered and lives in agricultural lands in close proximity to humans. Elsewhere, the species has been
extirpated in many parts of its former range.

The adult Sarus Crane is very large with grey wings and body; a bare red head and part of the upper neck; a greyish crown;
and a long greenish-grey pointed bill. In flight, the long neck is held straight, unlike that of an heron, which folds it back, and the
black wing tips can be seen; the crane's long pink legs trail behind them. This bird has a grey ear covert patch, an orange-red
iris and a greenish-grey bill. Juveniles have a yellowish base to the bill and the brown-grey head is fully feathered.

The sexes do not differ in plumage although males are on average larger than females; male Sarus of the Indian population can
attain a maximum height of about 180 cm making them the world's tallest extant flying bird. The weight of nominate race
individuals is 6.8–7.8 kg, while five adult sharpii averaged 8.4 kg. Across the distribution range, the weight can vary from 5 to 12 kg
height typically from 115 to 167 cm and the wingspan from 220 to 250 cm. Birds from Australia tend to be smaller than birds from
the north.

Sarus Crane Grus antigone at Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India
Photo: J.M.Garg

In Australia, the Sarus can easily be mistaken for the more widespread Brolga. The Brolga has the red colouring confined to the
head and not extending into the neck.

Unlike many other cranes that make long migrations, the Sarus Crane is largely non-migratory; it may however make short-distance
movements in response to rain or dry weather conditions. The only migratory population is in South-east Asia. Breeding pairs
maintain territories that are defended from other cranes using a large repertoire of calls and displays. Non-breeding birds occur
as flocks of various sizes that vary from 1–430 birds. In semi-arid areas, breeding pairs and successfully fledged juveniles depart
from territories in the dry season and join non-breeding flocks. In areas with perennial water supply, like in the western plains of
Uttar Pradesh, breeding pairs maintain perennial territories.

The largest known flocks are from the 29 km2 Keoladeo National Park– as many as 430 birds, and from wetlands in Etawah
and Mainpuri districts in Uttar Pradesh, ranging from 245–412 birds. Flocks of over 100 birds are also regularly reported from
Gujarat and Australia. During the breeding season, breeding pairs displace non-breeding birds from some wetland sites, and local
populations can appear to decline. Sarus Crane populations in Keoladeo National Park have been noted to reduce from over
400 birds in summer to just 20 birds during the Monsoon.

Sarus Crane Grus antigone at Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India.
Photo: J.M.Garg


They roost in shallow water, where they may be safe from some ground predators. Adult birds do not moult their feathers annually
and replace them only once every two or three years.

Sarus Cranes forage in shallow water (usually with less than 30 cm depth of water) or in fields, frequently probing in mud with their
long bills. They are omnivorous, eating insects (especially grasshoppers), aquatic plants, fish (perhaps only in captivity, frogs,
crustaceans and seeds. Occasionally tackling larger vertebrate prey such as water snakes (Xenochrophis piscator), Sarus Cranes
may in rare cases feed on the eggs of birds and turtles.] Plant matter eaten includes tubers, corms of aquatic plants, grass shoots
as well as seeds and grains from cultivated crops such as groundnuts and cereal crops such as rice.

There were about an estimated 15–20,000 mature Sarus Cranes left in the wild in 2009.
Source: Wikipedia

Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo

Demoiselle crane, Anthropoides virgo
Photo: Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com

The Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo, is a species of crane found in central Eurasia, ranging from the Black Sea to Mongolia
and North Eastern China. There is also a small breeding population in Turkey. These cranes are migratory birds. Birds from
western Eurasia will spend the winter in Africa whilst the birds from Asia, Mongolia and China will spend the winter in the Indian
subcontinent. The bird is symbolically significant in the culture of North India and Pakistan, where it is known as the koonj.

The Demoiselle is 85–100 cm long with a 155–180 cm wingspan. It weighs 2–3 kg. It is the smallest species of crane.
The Demoiselle Crane is slightly smaller than the Common Crane but has similar plumage. It has a long white neck stripe
and the black on the foreneck extends down over the chest in a plume.

It has a loud trumpeting call, higher-pitched than the Common Crane. Like other cranes it has a dancing display, more balletic
than the Common Crane, with less leaping.

The Demoiselle Crane lives in a variety of different environments, including desert areas and numerous types of grasslands
(flooded, mountain, temperate and tropical grassland) which are often within a few hundred metres of streams or lakes.
However, when nesting, they prefer patchy areas of vegetation which is tall enough to conceal them and their nests, yet short
enough to allow them look out for predators whilst incubating their eggs.

Demoiselle Cranes have to take one of the toughest migrations in the world. In late August through September, they gather in
flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight to their winter range. During their migratory flight south, Demoiselles
fly like all cranes, with their head and neck straight forward and their feet and legs straight behind, reaching altitudes of
4,900-7,900 m. Along their arduous journey they have to cross the Himalayan mountains to get to their over-wintering grounds
in India, many die from fatigue, hunger and predation from birds such as eagles.

Simpler, lower routes are possible, such as crossing the range via the Khyber Pass. However, their presently preferred route has been hard-wired by countless cycles of migration.

Khyber Pass. [Photograph].
Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 7 April 2012, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/6234/Khyber-Pass-Pakistan

At their wintering grounds, Demoiselles have been observed flocking with Common Cranes, their combined totals reaching up to
20,000 individuals. Demoiselles maintain separate social groups within the larger flock. In March and April, they begin their long
spring journey back to their northern nesting grounds.In Khichan, Rajasthan in India, villagers feed the Cranes on their migration
and these large congregations have become an annual spectacle.

Demoiselle Cranes of Khichan (Rajasthan India)

Hooded Crane, Grus monacha

The Hooded Crane, Grus monacha, is a small, dark crane. It has a grey body. The top of the neck and head is white, except for
a patch of bare red skin above the eye. It is one of the smallest cranes, but is still a fairly large bird, at 1 m long, a weight of 3.7 kg
and a wingspan of 1.87 m.

Adult crowns are unfeathered, red, and covered with black hairlike bristles. The head and neck are snow white, which extends
down the neck. The body plumage is otherwise slaty gray. The primaries, secondaries, tail, and tail coverts are black. Eye color
is hazel yellow to orange brown, legs and toes are nearly black. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable, although males
tend to be slightly larger in size.

Juvenile crown are covered with black and white feathers during the first year, and exhibit some brownish or grayish wash
on their body feathers.

The Hooded Crane breeds in south-central and south-eastern Siberia. Breeding is also suspected to occur in Mongolia.
Over 80% of its population winters at Izumi, southern Japan. There are also wintering grounds in South Korea and China.
There are about 100 hooded cranes wintering in Chongming Dongtan, Shanghai every year. Dongtan Nature reserve is the largest
natural wintering site in the world. In December 2011, a Hooded Crane was seen overwintering at the Hiwassee Refuge in
southeastern Tennessee, well outside its normal range. In February 2012, one was seen at Goose Pond in southern Indiana,
and is suspected to be the same bird, which may have migrated to North America by following sandhill cranes.

The estimated population of the species is 9,500 individuals. The major threats to its survival are wetland loss and degradation in
its wintering grounds in China and South Korea as a result of reclamation for development and dam building.
Conservation activities have been taken since 2008.

Hooded Cranes nest and feed in isolated sphagnum bogs scattered through the taiga in southeastern Russia, and in China,
in forested wetlands in mountain valleys. Non-breeding birds are found in shallow open wetlands, natural grasslands, and
agricultural fields in southern Siberia and northeastern Mongolia. During migration, Hooded Cranes often associate with
Eurasian and White-naped Cranes.

Mated pairs of cranes, including Hooded Cranes, engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of coordinated
calls. The birds stand in a specific posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display. The male
always lifts up his wings over his back during the unison call while the female keeps her wings folded at her sides. Hooded Crane
males initiate the display and utter one call for every two female calls. All cranes also engage in dancing, which includes various
behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, and wing flapping. Dancing can occur at any age and is
commonly associated with courtship, however, it is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes
and can serve to thwart aggression, relieve tension, and strengthen the pair bond.

Hooded Cranes nest in isolated, widely scattered bogs in the taiga and in other forested wetlands. Mossy areas are preferred
with widely scattered larch trees. Nests are constructed of damp moss, peat, sedge stalks and leaves, and branches of larch
and birch. Females usually lay two eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 27-30 days. The male takes the primary role in
defending the nest against possible danger. Chicks fledge (first flight) at approximately 75 days.

All cranes are omnivorous. Hooded Cranes diet includes aquatic plants, berries, insects, frogs, salamanders, roots, rhizomes, seeds,
grass, and small animals. At artificial feeding stations in Korea and Japan, Hooded Cranes eat rice, wheat, and other cereal grains.


Rapid development of the Hooded Crane's key wintering grounds in Japan, Korea, and China and the high risk of disease outbreak in the concentrated flocks at the winter feeding stations pose the most serious threats to the Hooded Crane. Drainage of wetlands and intensified logging pressures in Russia's taiga forests; reclamation of wintering grounds in China for agriculture and alterations in the hydrology of these areas caused by large dam construction (for example the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River) are additional concerns.

Source: Wikipedia and ICF


When nothing else stated, all pictures courtesy of
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin. www.savingcranes.org

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