The common crane, a large migratory bird


This elegant wader with slate gray plumage and plumed buttocks is one of the taller birds of Europe. Each fall, thousands of Common Cranes together make a long journey to the sun according to a ritual written since the dawn of time. Zoom on a migratory long-haul who seeks the company of his fellows.

Common Crane Identity Card

The Common Crane (grus grus) belongs to one of the oldest orders of birds: the gruiformes. This beautiful wading bird, which has changed little for millions of years, is part of the gruidae family. One of the largest birds in Europe, the Common Crane reaches the size of around 1.30 m, weighing between 4 and 6 kg and a wingspan of 2 m to 2.20 m.

Caudal plume for the common crane

The Common Crane is distinguished by a very slender and flanked by a superb caudal plume called rooster tail. The bird has slate gray plumage, tinged with brown on the back. His neck wears a black tie contrasting with a white band that goes down from the eyes to the nape of the neck. Her bare skin forms a red spot at the top of the head and its beak is straight and short, like a dagger. The common crane has a little sharp hearing and an almost non-existent sense of smell. Both sexes are identical.

The common crane, near the water

Common crane breeds in the northern europe from Norway to Russia, passing through the countries of the East (Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia …) then takes up its winter quarters in the south of Europe and in North Africa. The species nests in potholes, moist heather heathlands and shallow freshwater marshes, as well as in swamp forests, reed beds and peat bogs. It winters in open countryside, near a water point or a little further away, in cultivated areas.

Spectacular migrations

Every year in the fall, Common Cranes perform a migration of several thousand kilometers leading them in southern europe as far as North Africa. From the end of the summer, family groups meet near the nesting sites, then converge on the customary points of gatherings : island of Öland in south-eastern Sweden, Mataslu bay in Estonia, Oder valley in Poland, island of Rügen and lake Mürlitz in Germany. Hundreds, if not thousands of Common Cranes then begin their journey south, moving day and night and stopping at the sites ofstage traditional. All then leave for their final destination, forming large Vs in the sky and punctuating their flight with loud trumpet blasts to maintain the cohesion of the group.

The common crane, fan of cereals

Responding to energy needs important, the Common Crane spends long hours foraging. Dominant omnivorous vegetarian, the species favors plants: grains of cereals fallen to the ground after harvest (especially corn), young shoots, roots of reeds. Depending on its range, it also gleans wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice, peanuts, clover, alfalfa, acorns and olives fallen to the ground. In summer, small invertebrates complete its menu (caterpillars, grasshoppers, snails, slugs, spiders) and occasionally vertebrates: shrews, amphibians and broods of birds nesting on land.

Common crane, monogamous species

Like many waders, the Common Crane adopts a characteristic resting position: perched on A paw, she folds the other under the body and rests her head on the shoulder. With long wings, the species performs long distances rapidly (average speed estimated at 67 km / h over water and 44 km / h over land). Its flight can reach altitudes impressive: up to 5,000 m in Europe and 6,500 m in the Himalayas. This bird diurnal gets active at dawn to prospect for food and spends the night in a group, in dormitories. By nature gregarious, the common crane seeks the company of its fellows on all occasions. The rare individuals who stand apart are generally subjects sick or injured, forced to abandon their fellow travelers. During the breeding season, the bird becomes solitary and territorial again. His couple monogamous remains united throughout life.

Very resourceful chicks

The nest of the common crane is always located in a place humid : on an island or in the thickness of a reed bed. In general, the couple restores the old nest by collecting reed stems, leaves, twigs and dry grasses, which he piles up to create a large platform. Between the end of March and mid-May, the female deposits one to two eggs that both parents brood for a month. If the litter is a victim of predation, replacement spawning may occur in the days that follow. During the first three days, the newborns are fed by the adults. Nidifuges, they run, swim and learn very quickly to search alone their food. Able to fly at the age of two months, they are ready to accompany their parents for the whole first migration of their life, in the fall.

Common crane: stable workforce

The adult Common Crane has few predators, the Red fox generally and occasionally only attacking young people. The main threats to the species aredrying up wetlands (to spread crops) and the use of pesticides likely to generate locally the decrease of a population. Hunting and collision against power lines and wind turbines are also potential dangers while the disturbances by humans reduce the reproduction rate of the bird. Listed in the “Least Concern” category by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Common Crane is not considered an endangered species. His life expectancy is 15 to 17 years old wild.