Sarus cranes are mostly non-migratory in India, but often make short seasonal movements between dry and wet season habitats in Southeast Asia and Australia. The Indian Sarus Cranes G. a. antigone have adapted to the dense human population in India, and interact closely with people in areas where traditions of tolerance prevail. Similar adaptations occur with the Eastern Sarus G. a. sharpii in some regions of Myanmar. Throughout their range Sarus Cranes utilize a wide variety of landscapes, depending on food availability, cropping patterns, and other seasonal factors. Their optimal habitat includes a combination of small seasonal marshes, floodplains, high altitude wetlands, human-altered ponds, fallow and cultivated lands, and rice paddies. Often they focus their foraging on underground tubers of native wetland vegetation such as Eleocharis spp. Breeding pairs place their nests in a wide variety of natural wetlands, along canals and irrigation ditches, beside village ponds, and in rice paddies. Compared to other crane species, Sarus Cranes will utilize open forests where wetlands occur as well as in open grasslands more so than other crane species. Where possible, the nests are located in shallow water where short emergent vegetation is dominant. For nesting, use of human-dominated wetlands is most common in India, less common in Myanmar and Australia, and is rare in Southeast Asia.
Mated pairs of cranes, including Sarus Cranes, engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of calls where male and female vocalizations differ but are coordinated. The birds stand in a specific posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display. In Sarus Cranes the female initiates the display and utters two calls for each male call. The male always lifts up his wings over his back during the unison call while the female keeps her wings folded at her sides. 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.
Nests of all Sarus Cranes consist of wetland vegetation. In India, nests located in flooded rice paddies are constructed entirely of rice stalks. Indian Sarus Cranes breed primarily during the rains, with few pairs breeding outside this season in response to chick loss and creation of nesting habitat due to flooding caused by irrigation canals. Eastern and Australian Sarus Cranes now breed primarily in the rainy season though Eastern Sarus were reported to breed in floodplain wetlands during the dry season before their range dramatically receded. Females usually lay two eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 31-34 days. The male takes the primary role in defending the nest against possible danger. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 50-65 days.