Common Crane Fact File
Credit: Public Domain
Wild 15 years
Captive 15 years
Wading Across Europe, Africa and Asia!
The common crane is one of the tallest species of bird found in Europe. Adults can stand up to 1.3m (4.25ft) tall.
These birds wade across the land atop their long legs looking for food. Their diet varies by season. During the breeding season they eat animal prey and outside of this they focus on plants.
Pairs are formed during an intricate courtship display in which they raise their wings and call to one another while bouncing up and down.
Populations of these birds are increasing again after a decline which saw them become extinct in some areas of Europe.
Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds.
What does the Common Crane look like?
Across their body the common cranes have a greyish-blue or straight grey plumage. Their wings are primarily the same color but have a black edge. At the end of the body is a short tail of feathers.
Their head features a small red patch behind the black forehead. Their neck is black on the underside with a white stripe running down from the eye to the base of the neck.
Common cranes walk atop a pair of long, stilt-like legs which help to cross over the tall grass and reeds.
At the front of the head is a long, yellow bill which comes to a point. This is an adaptation which helps them to grab their food.
They stand 1-1.3m (3.5-4.25ft) tall and weigh 4-7kg (9-15.4lbs). An average wingspan for this species is between 200 and 225cm (6.6-7.4ft) across. The male and female have a similar appearance.
These animals are the tallest species of bird found in the United Kingdom.
How does the Common Crane survive in its habitat?
The long legs of the common crane help to keep them above the water line as they move through their wetland habitats looking for food.
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What does the Common Crane eat?
Common cranes are omnivores. They will feed on seeds, shoots, leaves, berries, invertebrates and amphibians.
These animals tend to focus more on animal prey during the breeding season. For the rest of the year they focus on plant matter.
Learn more about the Common Crane in this video from BBC on YouTube
Where do you find the Common Crane?
Europe, Africa and Asia is the native home of the common crane. Here they can be found in the following countries as a resident – Albania; Algeria; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belarus; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; India; Israel; Iran; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Republic of Korea; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Latvia; Libya; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Myanmar; North Macedonia; Nepal; Netherlands; Norway; Oman; Pakistan; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia; Serbia; Slovenia; Slovakia; Sudan; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam and Yemen.
The species has gone extinct in Austria. They were driven to extinction in the United Kingdom but the population has begun to recover.
They will move through the following countries – Afghanistan; Bahrain; Belgium; Cyprus; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Moldova; Palestine, State of; Saudi Arabia – during their annual migrations.
Occasional individuals have been reported as vagrants from the following countries – Canada; Djibouti; Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; Hong Kong; Iceland; Ireland; Kuwait; Liechtenstein; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Qatar; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; United States and the United Arab Emirates.
Where can the Common Crane survive?
Owing to their wide range this species is found in a large number of habitat types. These may include savanna, grasslands and wetlands.
Their habitat changes with the seasons. During the breeding season they are most commonly seen in shallow wetlands. They may also make use of man-made habitats such as rice paddies.
Credit: Олексій Карпенко, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
How does the Common Crane produce its young?
Pairs of cranes are monogamous and will spend their entire life together. If one passes away the other will attempt to find a new mate.
During their courtship the male and female will perform a dance with one another. During this they will leap in to the air and stretch their wings out. The head is tilted back while they let out a loud, trumpet-like call.
Their nest is a mound of vegetation. This is typically located near to water. A pair may reuse their nest over multiple years.
In to their nest they deposit between 1 and 2 eggs which are incubated for four weeks. The female undertakes most of the incubation but the male may occasionally assist.
At hatching chicks are rather helpless but within 24 hours can move around with their parents. They are initially covered by a coat of brown, down feathers.
Young develop the adult plumage between 3 and 4 years old.
Sexual maturity is reached by 5 years old.
What does the Common Crane do during its day?
Each year these animals will undertake a significant migration. They will breed in the north of their range and then move south over the winter to warmer climates.
During this migration groups of these birds will form in to V-shaped formations as they fly across the open sky. Occasionally they rotate position changing which bird is in the lead.
Following the breeding season these birds will moult their feathers. During this time they are unable to fly and they will spend their time hiding among tall reeds. This is often undertaken during the time in which the young are also unable to fly.
These birds are active during the day.
Occasionally birds have been spotted in a mixed flock with the sandhill crane in North America. It is thought that these birds joined flocks of cranes which were overwintering in Siberia and then returned with them to North America rather than Europe.
Their calls include the loud trumpeting used during mating and a low-pitched warble.
Credit: Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Predators and Threats
What stops the Common Crane from surviving and thriving?
Foxes prey on the eggs and chicks of these birds.
Numbers of the common crane are increasing across their range. The total population is estimated at around 500,000 individuals.
Despite an increasing and large population these animals still face a number of threats. These include habitat loss and degradation primarily through the building of dams which affected their wetland habitat needed for breeding.
Tourism and recreation heavily contributes to nest disturbance.
In some areas of their range this species is threatened by hunting. They may also suffer from collisions with power lines.
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These birds may also be referred to as the Eurasian crane.
They were first described for modern science during 1758.
Credit: Public Domain
Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.
2022. Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.
Audubon. 2022. Common Crane. [online] Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-crane> [Accessed 24 April 2022].
Sdakotabirds.com. 2022. Common Crane – Species Information and Photos. [online] Available at: <https://www.sdakotabirds.com/species/common_crane_info.htm> [Accessed 24 April 2022].
The RSPB. 2022. Crane Bird Facts | Grus Grus – The RSPB. [online] Available at: <https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/crane/> [Accessed 24 April 2022].
Salva Fauna. 2022. The Common Crane. [online] Available at: <https://www.salvafauna.com/en/wildlife-stories/common-crane> [Accessed 24 April 2022].
BirdLife International. 2021. Grus grus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T22692146A166235832. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T22692146A166235832.en. Accessed on 24 April 2022.
Thai National Parks. 2022. Grus grus, Common crane. [online] Available at: <https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/common-crane> [Accessed 24 April 2022].