Large crane, characterized by a common gray color, long neck and paws, black head with red crown and whitish cheeks. There is no sexual dimorphism. Young have brownish plumage.
Spread. Migratory bird, 2 subspecies found in Eurasia. The European area is located in the central and northern part of the western border, passing through the territory of Denmark and Norway. It winters on the Iberian Peninsula, as well as in North and East Africa. In Italy, it is common as a migratory species, a much smaller number of individuals winter here, and only in certain areas. From the beginning of the 20th century, it stopped nesting in the area of Venice.
Habitat. Prefers open areas: grass and upland marshes, wooded marsh areas. During the wintering of the gray crane, one can observe along the banks of lagoons, rivers, on fields, in steppes.
Biology. For the nest chooses a dry place in flooded places, on an island or on the shoals. From late March to June, it usually lays 2 reddish or greenish with brown spots eggs, which are cared for by both parents for 28–31 days. Young become flying at the age of 65–70 days. One brood per year. The Gray Crane is a cautious and incredulous bird, most of the time spending on the ground, on which it moves slowly and gracefully. The flight is powerful, wings flapping rather slow. The diet is diverse, includes all kinds of animals, but is based on plant food.
Interesting fact. During seasonal migrations, they unite in numerous flocks lining up in flight with a wedge. Loud screams, most often emitted in flight, resemble the sound of a trumpet.
Related species. Crane demois (Anthropoides virgo) can be recognized by bunches of white feathers on the sides of the head and by the black lower body. It nests in the steppes of the Asian continent, its appearance in Italy is random. (In the steppe zone of Russia it is rather common in some places.)
Gray cranes nest in western and northern Europe, in many territories of Russia (up to the Kolyma and Transbaikalia basins), in China and in Northern Mongolia. Also, they are not much observed in Altai, in Tibet and Turkey. In winter, cranes, like most birds, usually migrate to the south: to East and North Africa, to Spain, France, to the Middle East, to India and to China (south and east).
Their nesting sites: in swampy areas and in floodplains of rivers (marshy). In case of a lack of wetlands, they can settle near agricultural land. Cranes usually choose more elevated places for wintering, rather densely covered with grassy vegetation.
Gray Crane - Monogamous Bird. She keeps her pair for life. Only if the female or male dies, then the surviving bird finds another companion to life. And another couple can be formed in case of unsuccessful long attempts to have offspring.
From April to July, the breeding season lasts. As a rule, a pair is formed before the flight to the place of future nesting. After arriving at the scene, the female and male arrange the most original ritual dances. They represent bouncing, flapping their wings and an important prancing gait.
Above or near the water, a plot of land is chosen (relatively dry), necessarily among dense vegetation (thickets of reeds, etc.). This is the place for the nest. The male and female announce the choice of a suitable place with a drawling voice. Thus they mark their territory.
The nest itself is large (more than 1 m in diameter). It is built from the most diverse material. Usually 2 eggs are laid by the female. The incubation period lasts up to 31 days. Both male and female hatch eggs. Shortly after birth, the chicks may leave the parent nest. Their full plumage comes in about 70 days.
Gray Crane, as noted above, on arrival at home begins to dance in a peculiar way. He does it either alone or in a flock. During this period, the birds are very careful, so all this can only be observed from afar. Cranes on nests usually never form mass clusters, that is, pairs nest far from each other.
Nest female and male build very quickly and carelessly. As a result, it is just a bunch of firewood collected from nearby areas. Inside the nest is a tray lined with dry grass. As a rule, older birds occupy their nests (last year). Such a nest may serve a couple of years for a couple of cranes, the birds just update it a little every year.
Crane distribution in Russia
Gray Crane in Russia is represented by two subspecies - the western and eastern. they differ little from each other. The border of their distribution, as well as their subspecific independence, is studied relatively poorly in the territory of the country today. Approximately we can say that the border that separates these two subspecies, extends along the Ural Range. The western subspecies lives in European Russia, and eastern in Asiatic.
Moreover, it is known that for wintering the gray crane from the European part of the country flies to Africa (Morocco, Egypt, etc.), and from the eastern part (inhabiting mainly in Siberia) to the north of India or to China. An insignificant part of the gray cranes overwinter in the Transcaucasus.
In conclusion about the most interesting
At the very beginning of the mating season, gray cranes cover their feathers with mud and silt. This allows them to mask and hide from predators, making them less noticeable during periods of incubation and hatching of their chicks.
Crane gray, like other species, begins its flight with a smooth run down the wind, accelerating and revealing huge wings just before take-off.
Gray cranes are quite omnivorous: they feed on plants (tubers, leaves, stems, acorns, berries, etc.), invertebrates (worms and insects), vertebrates (snakes, frogs, rodents and fish). The crane can also feed itself with grain, even creating a threat to the crop.
The crane prefers to live in an open area, for example, a grass marsh. While incubating eggs and grooming chicks, they settle near water bodies or in thickets.
In food, cranes are not picky. Their diet includes a large amount of plant food: wild berries, seeds, plant shoots, grain crops (wheat, oats). In summer, the birds feed on frogs and insects. They also consume small rodents (for example, mice), snakes, lizards.
An important part of the diet of cranes is water. These birds consume a lot of fluids. If there is no water source nearby, the cranes fly to other places several times a day.
In aviaries and kennels, the diet of cranes is very diverse. They are given bread grains, raw meat, fish, etc. Cranes are very fond of feed intended for homemade chickens.
Abundance and prevalence
To date, the number of cranes is about 250 thousand birds. They live mainly in Russia and Scandinavia. The number of this species is constantly decreasing due to the drying up of wetlands and the construction of agricultural land. Farmers play an important role: they treat fields with pesticides on which cranes are looking for food. Oddly enough, poachers have little effect on the number of cranes. People very rarely shoot these birds.
Gray Crane is listed in the Red Book. Shooting and catching birds is prohibited by law. To save the number are created enclosures and kennels.
In Russia, there are 2 subspecies of the gray crane: eastern and western. By signs, they are practically no different. The dividing border passes through the Ural range. The western gray crane winters in African countries, and the eastern - in the northern parts of India and China. Some representatives of the species hibernate in the Transcaucasus.
- When the cranes hatch eggs and care for the chicks, they coat their plumage with silt or marsh mud. This is done for good masking and protection from predatory animals.
- Take off the crane - a fascinating sight. He smoothly scatters and spreads his wings just before takeoff.
- Crane - the oldest animal. This representative of the family of birds appeared about 40-60 million years ago. This means that the crane caught the era of dinosaurs. Primitive people depicted these birds on the walls of caves and rocks.