International Crane Foundation

 

Eurasian Crane

Grus grus
Eurasian Crane

HEIGHT: ~115 cm, 4 ft
WEIGHT: ~5.5 kg, 12 lbs
WINGSPAN: ~210 cm, 7 ft
POPULATION: 250,00 – 275,000
TREND: Unknown
STATUS: IUCN: LC; Cites Appendix II; CMS II

FUN FACT

The Eurasian Crane occurs in over 80 countries!

IDENTIFICATION

The majority of the body is slate gray, though the back and rump are darker than the breast and wings. The forehead and lores are black in contrast to the bare red crown. The chin, throat, and anterior part of the neck are black to dark gray. The nape is slate gray. A white stripe stretches from behind the eyes to the upper back. The legs and toes are black, and the bill is light colored.

Juvenile head and neck feathers are gray tipped with cinnamon, and the crown is covered by feathers. Download FREE Eurasian Crane images.

RANGE

The breeding range of the Eurasian Crane extends from northern and western Europe across Eurasia to northern Mongolia, northern China, and eastern Siberia. Seven main breeding populations are recognized. The winter range includes portions of France and the Iberian Peninsula, north and east Africa, the Middle East, India, and southern and eastern China.

Map
Range, Migration and Nesting Map

HABITAT & ECOLOGY

The Eurasian Crane nests primarily in bogs, sedge meadows, and other shallow freshwater wetland types within Eurasia’s boreal and temperate forest zones. They prefer large isolated wetlands, but the birds have adapted to smaller more disturbed wetlands within intensively cultivated landscapes. Grassland and other upland areas are used during the winter. Mated pairs of cranes, including Eurasian 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. In Eurasian Cranes the male initiates the display and utters one call for every three female calls. All cranes 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.

The Eurasian Crane’s nests consist of mounds of wetland vegetation. Females usually lay 2 eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 28-31 days. The male takes the primary role in defending the nest against possible danger. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 65-70 days.

DIET

All cranes are omnivorous. Principal foods of the Eurasian Crane include insects, waste and sown grain, acorns, invertebrates, frogs, lizards, snakes and rodents. In general, plants are more important in the winter diet.

THREATS

The leading threat to Eurasian Crane populations is the loss and degradation of breeding habitat throughout Europe, western Russia, and central Asia. Wetlands have also been lost or degraded along the species migration routes, and on wintering grounds in China, India, the Middle East, northeastern Africa, and Europe. The loss of the historic Mesopotamian wetlands in Iraq has likely displaced thousands of Eurasian Cranes in the Middle East.

ICF in Action

ICF is helping develop a joint collaboration between Ethiopia, Germany, and Israel to resolve conflicts between Eurasian Cranes and farmers. Eurasian Cranes are a threat to freshly planted crops during certain times of the year, and we are investigating proactive solutions to mitigate serious problems before drastic steps such as poisoning or shooting cranes are taken.

Species accounts derived from:

Johnsgard PA. 1983. Cranes of the world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Meine CD, Archibald GW. 1996. The cranes: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.