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Gruidae

Crane
Blue Crane Grus paradisea ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Gruidae or cranes are a family of large, long-legged and long-necked birds in the group Gruiformes. There are fifteen species of crane in just two genera. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Cranes live on all continents except Antarctica and South America.

They are opportunistic feeders that change their diet according to the season and their own nutrient requirements. They eat a range of items from suitably sized small rodents, fish, amphibians, and insects to grain, berries, and plants.

Cranes construct platform nests in shallow water, and typically lay two eggs at a time. Both parents help to rear the young, which remain with them until the next breeding season.

Some species and populations of cranes migrate over long distances; others do not migrate at all. Cranes are solitary during the breeding season, occurring in pairs, but during the non-breeding season they are gregarious, forming large flocks where their numbers are sufficient.

Most species of cranes have been affected by human activities and are at the least classified as threatened, if not critically endangered. The plight of the whooping cranes of North America inspired some of the first US legislation to protect endangered species.

According to the IOC there are 15 extant crane species. They are:

Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum
Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus
Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis
White-naped Crane Grus vipio
Sarus Crane Grus antigone
Brolga Grus rubicunda
Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo
Blue Crane Grus paradisea
Wattled Crane Grus carunculata
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis
Whooping Crane Grus americana
Common Crane Grus grus
Hooded Crane Grus monacha
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis

Family Links

Cranes Gruidae

Family Account

Overview of the 15 species

Cranes Gruidae

Family Account

The Cranes are a fairly small (15 species) family of large impressive birds of open country: marsh, tundra, and grasslands that go on forever. They are evocative of the wild, open places left on earth.

Cranes Gruidae

Cornell Species Account

American species only

Cranes Gruidae

Annotated species list

Cranes Gruidae

Family Account

Cranes are a family, Gruidae, of large, long-legged and long-necked birds in the group Gruiformes. There are fifteen species of crane in four genera. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Cranes live on all continents except Antarctica and South America.

Species Links

Black-crowned Crane Balearica pavonia

Species Account

The black crowned crane (Balearica pavonina) is a bird in the crane family Gruidae.…

Black-crowned Crane Balearica pavonia

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Black-crowned Crane Balearica pavonia

IUCN Species Status

Black-crowned Crane Balearica pavonia

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus

BirdLife Species Account

Full species account...

Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus

Species Account

The blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), also known as the Stanley crane and the paradise crane, is the national bird of South Africa.

Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus

IUCN Species Status

Blue Crane Grus paradiseus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Common Cranes Grus grus

Species Account

The common crane (Grus grus), also known as the Eurasian crane, is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes. The scientific name is from the Latin; grus, "crane".

Common Cranes Grus grus

BirdLife Species Account

Common Cranes Grus grus

IUCN Species Status

Common Cranes Grus grus

HBW Species Account

Common Cranes Grus grus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile…

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

Species Account

Image and profile...

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

Species Account

The grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum) is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It occurs in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although it nests in somewhat wetter habitats. They can also be found in marshes, cultivated lands and grassy flatlands near rivers and lakes in Uganda and Kenya and as far south as South Africa.

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

IUCN Species Status

Grey-crowned Crane Balearica regulorum

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Anthropoïdes Regulorum E. T. Bennett, 1834, South Africa. Formerly considered conspecific with B. pavonina (lumped species sometimes erroneously listed as B. regulorum), but differences revealed by electrophoresis, together with those in vocalizations, bare parts and plumage, as well as in genetic evidence, advocate recognition of two species. Two subspecies recognized.

Hooded Crane Grus monacha

Species Account

The hooded crane (Grus monacha) is a small, dark crane. It has a grey body. The top of the neck and head is white, except for a patch of bare red skin above the eye. It is one of the smallest cranes, but is still a fairly large bird, at 1 m (3.3 ft) long, a weight of 3.7 kg (8.2 lbs) and a wingspan of 1.87 m (6.2 ft).

Hooded Crane Grus monacha

BirdLife Species Account

Hooded Crane Grus monacha

IUCN Species Status

Hooded Crane Grus monacha

HBW Species Account

Hooded Crane Grus monacha

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Red-Crowned Crane Grus japonensis

BirdLife Species Account

Red-Crowned Crane Grus japonensis

IUCN Species Status

Red-Crowned Crane Grus japonensis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Ardea (Grus) Japonensis Statius Müller, 1776, Japan. Subspecies status formerly suggested for mainland and Japanese breeding populations, based on differences in vocalization patterns; some variation between these populations in morphology, coloration and egg size, but preliminary DNA analysis has shown no significant genetic distinction. Monotypic.

Red-Crowned Crane Grus japonensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Red-Crowned Crane Grus japonensis

Species Account

The Red-crowned Crane is a stately long-legged, long-necked bird whose immaculate snow-white plumage is accented by black secondary feathers, a black neck with contrasting white nape, and a red crown…

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

Species Account

The sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska's Sandhills on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane (Grus canadensis canadensis), with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually.

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

Cornell Species Account

Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention.

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

BirdLife Species Account

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

IUCN Species Status

Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

HBW Species Account

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile.…

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus

HBW Species Account

HBW species profile...

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus

Species Account

The Siberian crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus), also known as the Siberian white crane or the snow crane, is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes. They are distinctive among the cranes, adults are nearly all snowy white, except for their black primary feathers that are visible in flight and with two breeding populations in the Arctic tundra of western and eastern Russia.

Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus

IUCN Species Status

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus

Species Account

The wattled crane (Grus carunculata) is a large bird found in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. It is often placed in the monotypic genus Bugeranus, though some authorities place it with other crane species in the genus Grus.

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus

IUCN Species Status

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus

HBW Species Account

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus

Species Account

Within southern Africa the wattled crane has a fragmented range. One population extends from Natal to the eastern Transvaal and Swaziland. A second population occurs in the Zimbabwe highlands. All these birds are more or less resident and inhabit permanent wetlands…

Whooping Crane Grus americana

Species Account

The whooping crane (Grus americana), the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. In 2003, there were about 153 pairs of whooping cranes. Along with the sandhill crane, it is one of only two crane species found in North America.

Whooping Crane Grus americana

BirdLife Species Account

Whooping Crane Grus americana

IUCN Species Status

Whooping Crane Grus americana

Cornell Species Account

The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and one of the most awe-inspiring, with its snowy white plumage, crimson cap, bugling call, and graceful courtship dance.

Whooping Crane Grus americana

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 15

Useful Reading

A Chorus of Cranes – The Cranes of North America and the World

By Paul A Johnsgard | Illustrated by Thomas D Mangelsen | University Press of Colorado | Paperback | Nov 2015 | 226 Pages | 35 Colour and 41 Black & White Illustrationss |
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781607324362

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Norfolk Cranes' Story

by John Buxton & Chris Durdin - Wren Publishing 2011

ISBN: 9780954254551

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

European Crane Working Group

Website

Common Crane Grus grus - Welcome in the World of the Cranes…

International Crane Foundation

Website

Cranes are a family of birds that have long been revered by people living near them. In Japan, the cranes are honored as symbols of long life and a happy marriage. In Viet Nam, cranes are believed to carry the souls of the dead to heaven. In North America, Africa, and Australia, native inhabitants have incorporated the crane`s graceful movements into their own dances and regard cranes as auspicious symbols.

UK Crane Working Group

Whooping Crane Conservation Association

Website

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1966 with the following stated objectives: 1. Advance conservation, protection, and propagation of the Whooping Crane population through its communications, publications, meetings, and committees, and through the activities of its members; to provide its members an opportunity for meeting to discuss related topics. 2. To prevent the extinction of the Whooping Crane. 3. To establish and maintain a captive management program for the perpetuation of the species. 4. To promote greater harmony and unity of purpose among all organizations, institutions, and agencies working toward the protection, conservation, and production of this species. 5. To collect and disseminate knowledge of this species; to advocate and encourage public appreciation and understanding of the Whooping Crane`s educational , scientific, and economic values.

Other Links

The Norfolk Cranes' Story

Website

The cranes’ story starts with their arrival at Horsey in 1979. Their first nesting attempt was in 1981 and the first chick fledged in 1982. From this slow start in the Broads, the re-colonisation of this iconic wetland bird is now taking small but steady steps forwards elsewhere in the UK…