Basic Information

Scientific Name Grus grus
Featured bird groups Shore Bird
Phylum Chordata

The common crane (Grus grus), also known as the Eurasian crane, is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes. Common Crane is a wonderful bird, walking slowly in an elegant way as soon as it is on the ground. Its slate-grey plumage, enhanced with black or bluish-black on primary and secondary flight feathers, gives to this bird a proud pace. These fairly long feathers fall on the short tail, and “dance” while the bird is moving. The head shows a red patch of bare skin at the top of the crown. Upper neck, throat, face and nape are black. A white patch coming from the eyes extends downwards to the hind neck. The grey bill shows some reddish at the base. The red eyes give mystery to the glance. The long black legs with three large fingers (the thumb is insignificant) carry this majestic whole with a light step. The young are slightly smaller, and their entirely feathered head is mainly chestnut. The greyish throat and the brownish upperparts make the difference, as the less bulky tail. Brown or dark grey legs, grey or brown eyes, they will need several successive moults to reach the beautiful adult plumage, about three to four years.  Both sexes are similar.

Habitat

In winter, this species moves to flooded areas, shallow sheltered bays, and swampy meadows. During the flightless moulting period there is a need for shallow waters or high reed cover for concealment. Later, after the migration period, the birds winter regularly in open country, often on cultivated lands

Behaviour

The common crane is omnivorous, as are all cranes. It largely eats 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, cedarnuts and pods of peanuts. Notably amongst the berries consumed, the cranberry, is possibly named after the species. Animal foods become more important during the summer breeding season and may be the primary food source at that time of year, especially while regurgitating to young. Their animal foods are insects, especially dragonflies, and also snails, earthworms, crabs, spiders, millipedes, woodlice, amphibians, rodents, and small birds. Common cranes may either forage on land or in shallow water, probing around with their bills for any edible organism. Although crops may locally be damaged by the species, they mostly consume waste grain in winter from previously harvested fields and so actually benefit farmers by cleaning fields for use in the following year. 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.

Voice

Towards late October, the undulating flights animate the sky, accompanied by unceasing calls “krou-krou-krou”. The first Common Cranes’ flocks announce the autumnal migration for wintering beneath more clement skies.

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