Animal stories: Cranes
Cranes are large and tall flying birds. They have a long neck, long legs, long, rounded wings, a long, pointed bill and a streamlined body. Among the crane species, Sarus cranes are the tallest crane at about six feet tall with a wingspan of eight feet. The smallest crane species are Demoiselle cranes.
Adult cranes are grey with a bare red head and white crown and a long dark pointed bill. They have long red or pink legs. Both male and female cranes look similar. Only difference is that the female cranes are slightly smaller than males.
Cranes are usually seen in small groups of two to five. These birds use their long legs to wade in shallow water and use their long neck and sharp bill to kill small animals and obtain some tender plant roots. Cranes must get a running start usually facing the wind to fly. When cranes migrate, they fly in a ‘V’ formation. Cranes have also been a symbol of peace, purity, wisdom, prosperity and longevity for thousands of years.
Cranes are omnivorous. They eat insects, aquatic plants and animals, crustaceans, seeds and berries. Their diet includes frogs, reptiles, eggs of birds, eggs of freshwater turtles, a variety of invertebrates including butterflies, dragonflies and grasshoppers, tubers of aquatic plants, cereals, potatoes, peas and fruits. They also feed on plant material like berries.
Cranes are found in Africa, Asia, Australian, Europe and North America. Some species migrate seasonally to breed in a cold area and eat in warm area. Cranes often make short seasonal movements between dry and wet season habitats in Southeast Asia and Australia. Cranes utilise a wide variety of landscapes, depending on food availability and other seasonal factors. The most common place for cranes are wetlands. They prefer cultivated and fallow fields and saline and water-logged lands. They build a bulky nest on the ground with wetland vegetations.
Female cranes lay two to three eggs in a nest. Crane eggs vary in colour from white to light blue according to their species. Both the male and female take turns sitting on the nest. The incubation period is about 31-34 days. Males are the main protectors of the nest. Newly born cranes will be ready to take their first flight at 50-65 days. Cranes mostly mate for life. — Compiled by Merina Pradhan