Sarus Crane Fact File
Credit: Aditya Pal, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Wild 30 years
Captive 42 years
The sarus crane is a native species of Asia and Australia. In Australia the species associates with the brolga and will interbreed to produce a hybrid with this species.
They are an omnivore and will feed on invertebrates, frogs, small animals, roots and tubers.
Pairs of sarus cranes will mate for life. The male and female will come together following an intricate mating display during which they dance, jump and produce a loud call.
Unfortunately these birds have suffered through declines to their population as a result of the loss and degradation of their wetland habitat.
Read on to learn more about these brilliant birds.
What does the Sarus Crane look like?
The body of the sarus crane is grey across the majority of the feathers. On the wings a small area of black plumage is present. Their head features spectacular red feathers with a distinctive grey patch behind the eye and on the crown.
Protruding from the head is a sharp, straight horn colored bill.
Their body sits atop two, long red legs.
Their iris is colored orange-red.
Both the male and female share similar physical traits. Males tend to be slightly larger than females. They stand 1.5m (4.9ft) tall with a weight of between 6.8 and 7.8kg (15-17.2lbs). Their wingspan is up to 140cm (55in) across.
These birds share part of their range with the brolga which is visually similar but the legs of the brolga are grey.
What does the Sarus Crane eat?
Sarus cranes are omnivores. They feed on invertebrates, fish, grain, frogs with small amounts of vegetable matter, roots and tubers occasionally consumed. Rare instances of them feeding on reptiles and eggs have also been recorded.
These birds have been seen associating with herds of cattle which will stir up animals such as frogs in the grass and make them easier for the cranes to find.
Credit: Ad031259, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Where can you find the Sarus Crane?
The sarus crane is a native of Asia and northern Australia. Here they can be found in the following countries – Australia, Bangladesh; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Viet Nam.
These animals are considered to be extinct in Malaysia; Philippines and Thailand. The population in China may also be extinct.
What kind of environment does the Sarus Crane live in?
Sarus cranes are found in grasslands and wetlands. During the breeding season they can be found in savanna woodland.
They will make use of man-made or altered habitats such as rice paddies, maize stubble and cattle pastures. As their natural habitat is removed their use of man-made areas is increasing.
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How does the Sarus Crane produce its young?
Breeding occurs during the wet season across their range. In some areas where conditions are right they have been recorded to breed year round.
Pairs will form for life. To attract a mate they will perform a spectacular dancing ritual during which they make a loud call. This occurs within a wet marsh or a rice paddy.
Their nest is described as an island which rises slightly above the water line. It is formed from reeds and grasses. It may reach up to 2m (6.6ft) across.
Females lay two pinkish-white eggs which are patterned with some brown markings. On some rare occasions a pair will manage to raise three chicks in the same season.
The eggs are incubated by both parents for between 26 and 35 days.
Chicks can walk as soon as they hatch and are fledged by 100 days old.
In Australia where they live alongside the brolga the two have recently been confirmed, through genetic testing, to hybridize. These hybrids are able to breed with other hybrids or pure specimens of the two original species.
What does the Sarus Crane do with its day?
These birds will typically move together in a pair. At times they will gather at food sources in flocks of up to 60 members.
Breeding pairs will live in a territory which they defend against other pairs. To achieve this they have a wide range of calls and displays to scare away predators.
Sarus cranes will molt their feathers once every two or three years.
Credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Predators and Threats
What is impacting the survival of the Sarus Crane?
Sarus cranes roost in shallow water and this affords some level of protection against their ground predators.
Eggs of this species may be taken by jackals and birds of prey.
The current population of the sarus crane is believed to include between 13,000 and 15,000 mature individuals across their range. At present it is believed that the population of these animals is declining.
They are primarily threatened by the loss and degradation of the wetland habitat on which they rely. Other threats include the ingestion of poison and the collection of their eggs and chicks for use in food, trade and medicine. Some of the killings are carried out due to a perception that they damage crops.
Sarus cranes have been recorded to collide with power lines leading to their demise. Disturbance by boats is another problem in parts of their range.
For many years this species went undetected in Northern Australia being mistaken for the brolga.
The sarus crane is the world’s tallest species of flying bird.
In India the sarus crane is seen as a symbol of marital fidelity. They are listed as the state bird of Uttar Pradesh.
Their name is taken from the Hindi name for the species, sāras. It is taken from a word meaning “lake bird.”
Credit: Koshy Koshy from Faridabad, Haryana, India, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Mounter, B., 2020. ‘It’s an interesting evolutionary process we’re watching’: Brolgas and cranes ‘crossing the dancefloor’ in northern Queensland. [online] Abc.net.au. Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-10/brolga-and-sarus-create-hybrid-species-in-queensland/12860116> [Accessed 1 October 2021].
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