Bird Families

Black crane: what does science say about the rare bird?


  • Birds

Domain: Eukaryotes

Kingdom: Animals

A type: Chordates

Class: Birds

Squad: Cranes

Family: Cranes

Genus: Cranes

View: Gray crane


The gray crane nests in northern and western Europe, in most of Russia up to the basin of the Kolyma River and Transbaikalia, Northern Mongolia and China. In addition, small nesting sites have been observed in Turkey, Altai and Tibet. The gray crane is absent in the tundra regions in the north and semi-deserts in the south. In winter it migrates to the south - to Spain, France, North and East Africa, the Middle East, India, as well as the southern and eastern regions of China.

It nests mainly in swampy areas: hummocky bogs surrounded by forest, in meadows overgrown with sedge or reeds, in swampy floodplains of rivers. They prefer large isolated wetlands, but in case of a lack of such places, they can settle in small areas close to agricultural land. For wintering, they choose highlands, densely covered with grassy vegetation, often settle near agricultural land and pastures.


The color is predominantly gray, which differs well from the Siberian Crane and storks. Despite the difference in size, it can be easily confused with Demoiselle Crane. In contrast, there are no decorating feathers behind the eye and on the back of the head, but at about the same place there is a white spot descending to the neck. The bottom of the neck is gray, without hanging black feathers. As a rule, it is not possible to discern the red bare skin on the crown of the head from afar. The gray crane has a more elongated head than the belladonna. The plumage of young birds is reddish-gray, including on the head and neck; by the first spring, they acquire a color almost like in adults. The weight of adult birds is 3.0–6.1 kg, length 114–130, wing 54.0–66.0, span 200–230 cm.

Types of cranes

All types of cranes can be divided into three groups depending on their size: height, weight and wingspan. The first consists of the largest: Japanese, Indian, Australian, American and gray cranes. The second includes birds of medium size: Siberian Cranes, gray, Canadian, black-necked and Daurian representatives of the family. The third one consists of the smallest birds: belladonna, paradise, black, crowned and oriental crowned cranes.

Australian crane

Among all cranes, the tallest is australian crane (Grus rubicunda). He holds the record for the tallest bird in the world that can fly. It is found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. This species is omnivorous, but tubers of some crops are preferred primarily. Insects, molluscs, amphibians and even mice are also present in their diet.

Japanese crane

Another type that is in the first group is Japanese crane (Grus japonensis). It can weigh up to 9 kg, its wingspan reaches 2.5 m, and its height is 1.5 m. It is one of the rarest species of crane that is migratory and spends the summer in the wetlands of East Asia. And it winters in the salty and freshwater swamps of China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese crane usually lives for 30 years in the wild and in captivity for over 60 years.

Indian crane

Indian crane (Grus antigone) - the largest member of the family, given the ratio of height to weight. Its height reaches 1.8 m, and its weight ranges from 5 to 12 kg, the wingspan is up to 2.5 m.Lives in northern India, Southeast Asia, as well as in the northern regions of Australia.

Number and distribution

Most of the cranes nest in Russia and Scandinavia. Today there are about 250 thousand of these birds.... However, their number is steadily declining due to the construction of various facilities, drying up of swamps, expansion of agricultural areas, and so on. In addition, cranes are killed by pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops. Poachers of these birds, if they shoot, then in scanty numbers. Therefore, this fact does not affect the reduction of their number.

Common cranes are listed in the Red Book and are protected by the states of many countries. They are protected by laws on migratory migratory and swimming birds. Shooting and catching cranes is prohibited by law. However, despite all the protection and despite the fact that the cranes are listed in the Red Book, the number of these birds is decreasing from year to year.

In Russia, there are two types of common cranes - western and eastern... They are almost indistinguishable from each other. The distribution boundary and independence of the species are not fully understood. It is known that the border separating these two subspecies runs along the Ural Range. The western subspecies of cranes lives in European Russia, and the eastern one - in Asian. In winter, the crane flies from the European part of the country to Africa. And from the east to the north of India or to China. A small part of the birds remain to winter outside the Caucasus.

American crane

a photo

The rarest species is American crane (Grus americana), which occupies several, mostly protected areas in North America. Its habitat consists of open areas close to a lot of water and vegetation. The open area is especially important for the visual detection of possible predators.


During the breeding season, the black crane feeds in hard-to-reach areas of the raised sphagnum bogs of the taiga with oppressed woody vegetation, mainly consisting of larch or rare shrubs. In areas of winter migration, it stops near rice or grain fields and in wetlands, where black cranes huddle in large flocks, often together with gray and dahurian cranes. The diet of this species includes both plant and animal food - these are aquatic plants, berries, grains, insects, frogs, salamanders and other small animals.

Gray-crowned crane

a photo

Gray-crowned crane (Bugeranus carunculatus) got its name because of the unique among the cranes "earrings" - two long leathery shoots. They are monogamous birds that mate for life. After an incubation period of 33-36 days, a couple has basically one chick. In about five months, he will be able to fly. Both parents constantly take care of their offspring.

Siberian Crane, or White Crane

a photo

Siberian Crane, or White Crane (Grus leucogeranus) - endemic to the northern territories of Russia. They are slender, very beautiful white birds of medium size: height up to 1.4 m, wingspan from 2.1 to 2.3 m, weight from 4.9 to 8.6 kg. It is difficult to distinguish males from females as they are very similar in appearance. A unique characteristic of Siberian Cranes is their serrated beak, which helps them catch slippery prey and feed on underground roots.

The crane family includes four genera and 15 species. Some scientists also include shepherd cranes and trumpeters in the crane family. However, according to the international classification, these species belong to other families.

Gray crane (Grus grus, or Grus communis)

Gray crane in flight
Appearance: the body is painted gray, brown and black shades are present on the fluffy tail. The front of the neck is dark gray. There is a red spot on the back of the head. The eyes are red. "Pants" - the upper feathered part of the legs - light gray. The legs are black and the beak is light. The female of the gray crane is colored monotonous gray.

Distribution: the gray crane lives in Eurasia, overwinters in the south of the continent, in the North of Africa, in India and Saudi Arabia.

Early winter and gray crane

Features: one of the most common species of crane, however, the number of gray birds is inexorably decreasing. The reason for this is the decrease in the places suitable for nesting, the drying up of rivers and swamps.

Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus)

Two Siberian Cranes in the meadow
Appearance: a medium-sized bird (height up to 140 centimeters, weight - 5-8 kilograms), with a slender body, short legs and a short neck. The plumage of the body is white, the face is red, the legs are pale pink, the beak is dark red.

Distribution: White cranes live in the northern part of Russia. Siberian Cranes are endangered and included in the international lists of the Red Book.

Siberian Crane in the Swamp

Features: Siberian Cranes have an unusual beak - along the inner edge there are numerous teeth, with which the bird is able to catch slippery fish and pull out underground roots.

Daurian crane (Grus vipio)

Photo of the Daurian crane
Appearance: The torso, tail and front of the neck are colored dark gray. The back of the neck and head are white. Bare red areas around eyes. The legs are pink, the beak is gray-green.

Distribution: Daurian cranes live in Mongolia, China, South Korea.

Features: A rare species, the number is 4900-5300 birds.

Canadian crane (Grus canadensis)

Cranes among tall grass
Appearance: Canadian cranes have a barrel-shaped body and long thin legs, the neck is shortened. The beak is thick and medium in length. The color of the body is brown. The neck is gray-green, the legs are black. The areas around the eyes are dark red. The average weight of a bird is 4 kilograms, its height is 120 centimeters.

Distribution: cranes of the Canadian group live in the north of America and Chukotka.

Features: the most numerous species of cranes. The number of the bird colony is 650 thousand birds.

Black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis)

Black-necked crane flapped its wings
Appearance: birds with an elongated, horizontally set body and a strongly arched neck. The body is colored gray, the head with a neck and a bushy tail are black. Burgundy spots above the eyes. The legs and eyes are black.

Distribution: birds live in Tibet, China and India. They lead a sedentary life. Rarely found in the Alps.

Photo of a black-necked crane in early winter

Features: Black-necked cranes are not afraid of people, therefore they often settle next to human dwellings.

Demoiselle crane, belladonna or lesser crane (Anthropoides virgo)

Photo of belladonna near
Appearance: the smallest member of the crane family. The weight of the bird does not exceed three kilograms, and the height of the crane is 85-90 centimeters. The plumage of the body is smoky. Feathers under the tail, on the neck and head are black. On the chest there is a lush bunch of long black feathers.

Distribution: there are six numerous bird populations that live in 47 countries of the world. The largest number of small cranes is observed in Russia, Central Asia, Africa. Two dozen pairs of Demoiselles nest in Turkey.

Belladonna by the pond

Features: the small crane, unlike its family counterparts, prefers to live on open plains with dense vegetation.

Paradise crane, African belladonna or Stanley crane (Anthropoides paradiseus)

The paradise crane is looking for food
Appearance: a meter-high bird weighing 2-2.5 kilograms. It has a large head, a short narrow beak, an elongated body and a long drooping tail. Plumage color - all shades of gray.

Distribution: the paradise crane inhabits the southern regions of Africa, in particular 99% of birds live in South Africa, a small population nests in Namibia.

Paradise crane in an endless field

Features: African belladonna hibernates in the mountains. In summer, it nests on agricultural lands.

Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina)

Crowned crane near the quarry
Appearance: stately birds are brightly colored - the upper body and neck are gray, the belly and loin are black, the short tail is black. The wings are white in the upper part, yellow spots are present at the base, a burgundy stripe along the posterior edge of the wings. The crown is a fluffy thread-like bundle on the head - yellow in color. The goiter is red, the cheeks are white, the face is black. The short beak is gray, the legs are brown.

Distribution: sedentary lives on the western and eastern coasts of the African continent.

Something has clearly angered the crowned crane.

Features: The crowned crane has a long hind toe on its feet. Thanks to this structure of the paws, the bird manages to easily maintain balance while sitting on a tree branch.

Eastern Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)

Eastern crowned crane in flight
Appearance: birds up to 120 centimeters high, weighing 3-4 kilograms. The plumage of the back and abdomen is gray-blue with a light neck. The tips of the wings are white. Brown and red feathers grow on the tail. The orange crown is located at the back of the head. Long legs are gray, short thick beak is black.

Distribution: The eastern crowned crane lives mainly in eastern Africa. Sedentary view.

Pair of Oriental Crowned Cranes

Features: Most cranes are semi-nomadic. Birds make seasonal migrations only within their habitat, flying closer to water bodies during a drought.

Black Crane (Grusmonacha)

Black crane drinks water from the lake
Appearance: the average height of birds is 1 meter, body weight is 2.8-3.5 kilograms. The body is black, the neck and head are white. The forehead is black, the long thick beak is light brown. Legs are gray.

Distribution: a small population of the black crane (there are 9.5 thousand birds in the world) nests mainly in Russia. Small groups are found in China and South Korea.

Photo of a black crane in a swamp

Features: these birds lead a secretive way of life, nest mainly in the hard-to-reach areas of the raised sphagnum bogs of the taiga. For the first time, the nest of the black crane was discovered in 1974. A rare species, listed in the Red Book.


Mating dances of cranes
Marriage rituals include choral songs and dances. Males, attracting females, perform sonorous songs. While singing, males stretch their necks and lift their heads so that their beak looks up into the sky. During the period of spring songs, they say "The cranes are blowing the dawn." The sonorous voices of the cranes herald the coming of spring.

Ritual bird dances look colorful. Sexually mature birds run in a circle, flapping their wings and jumping up and down on their stilt legs. During the dance, loud, sharp sounds are emitted, ending in a voiceless consonant "rkakk-like-karrs". The dance involves two to seven birds.

Lifestyle, features

The gray crane, as noted above, upon arrival at its homeland begins to dance in a peculiar way. They do this either alone or in a flock. During this period, the birds are very careful, so all this can be observed only from afar. Nesting cranes usually never form mass gatherings, that is, pairs nest far from each other.

The female and male build the nest very quickly and carelessly. As a result, it is just a bunch of brushwood collected from the surrounding areas. Inside the nest is a tray lined with dry grass. As a rule, older birds occupy their nests (last year's). Such a nest can serve a pair of cranes for several years, just every year the birds update it a little.


Gray cranes are real migratory birds. Every year in spring and autumn, they cover great distances. Such migrations are energy-intensive. Therefore, at the end of August - beginning of September, the cranes gather in traditional places, where they form pre-migration aggregations, numbering from several tens to several thousand birds.

Such territories are usually confined to vast agricultural fields and safe overnight stays (islands, streams, swamps). Here the birds rest, gain strength before a long journey, get used to each other.Early in the morning and late in the evening, the cranes fly between the places of overnight stay and feeding, while the flocks line up in the form of a wedge. This is exactly the time period when cranes are tolerant of the presence of people and agricultural machinery in the fields. It is at this time that it is easiest to see them and hear their sonorous voices.

From the end of August in the northern regions to the beginning of October in the southern cranes they leave their native places and migrate to the south. Like most other large birds with wide wings, cranes use a flight strategy that uses less energy during migration.

In calm weather, usually on the warm days of Indian summer, cranes rise into the air and look for the so-called thermals - vertically rising streams of warm air. At this time, you can see the departure of the cranes - the flock suddenly takes off and, with shouts, begins to circle, rising higher and higher on the stream, until, finally, it completely disappears in the blue sky. Such air currents carry the cranes in the desired direction at high speed. So in a short period of time they cover great distances, making rather long stops for rest and feeding along the way.

The gray cranes overwinter in the south of Western Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, India and China. Cranes that live in the north of the European part, in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries fly to winter in France, Spain, Egypt and Sudan. Birds from the central regions of the European part of Russia, as well as from Western Siberia winter in Turkey, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and partly in Egypt. Common cranes living in the Baikal region, southeastern Siberia and the Far East winter in India and China.

Interesting facts about cranes

  1. They can never be seen on the branches of trees, they love comfort very much. Sitting on thin, bending branches is not for these proud birds. There is an ancient legend that once a crane couple, very tired on the road, sat on a dry tree, and at night lightning struck the tree and it caught fire. The birds were fast asleep, and the flames touched their feet, severely scorching them. The creatures flew up in horror, but one could not get out of the flames. Since then, none of the birds has perched on a tree, and you can often hear their plaintive cry. Of course, the veracity of the legend can be argued, but the fact that they do not sit in the trees is a fact.
  2. Cranes are very romantic birds. They choose their mates for life. Only in the event of the death of a partner or the absence of offspring, the second half can form a new pair.
  3. These majestic birds are depicted on the rock paintings of ancient people.
  4. The people of Armenia also did not bypass this genus of birds, making them the national symbol of the country, which personifies happiness, love, health, well-being. For the Chinese and Japanese, this creature is a symbol of wisdom, honor, beauty, longevity, vigilance. In Christianity, it is often associated with the sun and pine. And in Russia, the crane is a symbol of loyalty.
  5. The bird is the hero of numerous legends, fairy tales, legends, films, cartoons. For example, in the cartoon Kung Fu Panda, Master Crane is one of the Furious Five. The fighting style of this character is based on precise balance. In this he is helped by his wide wings and long beak.
  6. One of the satellites of the "Land of the Rising Sun" is called "tsuru", which means crane. The Japanese firmly believe in the omen: if a sick person needs to recover, but he cannot do this for a long time, then origami must be created from a thousand paper cranes. Then the person will receive good health.
  7. A girl named Sadako Sasaki was killed in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. She was only 12 years old. Paper cranes were chosen as a symbol of peace, these origami were sent to Japan by caring people from all over the world.