If you are a regular traveler on trains, and you are a good observer, then it must have happened to you as well! Usually, while traversing, then train abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere and looking outside you see a creature which could only be described as grace personified.
Lonely in the vast green lowland, the creature is so slender from a top, feathered and stout in the middle, and then adjoined with thin, willowy legs. You continue looking at this huge, conspicuous bird which pecks in the ground and suddenly shifts to the flight mode.
Bathing in the supple morning sun rays, it steadily flies away. For a bird lover, the sight just makes his or her day. It is the ever so beautiful and graceful Crane!
Crane is a bird which looks like a close relative of herons and storks, although they aren’t related genetically. All cranes are divided into four genera, with 15 species in total. These birds are found in all continents except South America and the Antarctica.
Cranes prefer living in plains and marshes. The number of all crane species reduced drastically because of increased habitat loss and pet trade in a previous couple of years. Florida Sandhill Crane, Whooping Crane, Mississippi Sandhill Crane and Siberian Crane are on the list of endangered species.
Many species of cranes are at the least considered as threatened, if not severely endangered, within their range. The whooping cranes’ plight of North America compelled some of the first United States legislation to protect all endangered species.
Since they’re opportunistic feeders which quickly change their diet depending on the season and their nutrient requirements. They eat a broad range of items from appropriately sized small rodents, amphibians, fish, and insects to berries, grain, and plants.
Cranes build platform nests in shallow water and usually lay 2 eggs at a time. Both parents assist to rear the young that stay with them until the following breeding season.
Some populations and species of cranes migrate over very long distances; others don’t migrate at all. Cranes are alone during the period of reproduction, happening in pairs, but during non-breeding season they’re gregarious, forming huge flocks where their numbers are enough.
The cranes’ plumage differs by habitat. Species inhabiting huge open wetlands seem to have more white spots in the plumage than the species which inhabit smaller forested or wetlands habitats that tend to be grayer.
These white species are also mostly larger. The color and smaller size of the forest species is considered to assist them to preserve a less conspicuous profile while nesting.
Two of these species (the Sandhill and common cranes) also daub their feathers with mud to boost their camouflage while nesting.
Many species of crane have some parts of bare skin on their face; the only two exceptions are the Demoiselle and blue cranes. This skin is often used when communicating with other cranes, and can be enlarged by contracting and relaxing muscles, and vary the intensity of color. Feathers on the head can be easily moved and erected in the wattled, blue and demoiselle cranes for signaling as well.
Also significant to communication is the length and position of the trachea. In the two crowned- cranes, the trachea is just slightly impressed upon the sternum bone and shorter, while the trachea of the all other species is longer and also penetrates the sternum. In some species, the whole sternum is bonded to the trachea’s bony plates, and it assists amplify the calls of the crane, enabling them to carry for many kilometers.
Several species of crane are reliant on wetlands and need vast areas of open space. Most of the species of crane nest in various shallow wetlands. Some species nest in the wetlands but transfer their chicks up onto the grasslands to feed (whereas returning to the wetlands at night).
Others stay in wetlands during the entire breeding season. Even for the two species of Anthropoides crane that may nest and feed in the grasslands (or even deserts or arid grasslands), they need wetlands for perching during the night. The only two species which don’t always perch in wetlands are the two African crowned- cranes that are the only cranes to perch in trees.
Interesting and Fun Facts About Crane:
1. Cranes are very opportunistic feeders since they will eat whatever they can find in their habitat. Fish, amphibians, small rodents and insects, along with berries, seed and different plant, are usually on their menu.
2. Crane’s mating season depends on their species. On-migratory cranes usually mate from December to March while migratory species mate between April and May.
3. The average lifespan of the crane in the wild is 20-30 years. The oldest crane which survived for the longest span was a Siberian crane named Wolf. It lived for 83 years in captivity!
4. History indicates that cranes spend their entire life with the same mate, but a recent scientific study found out that they change their mate in their lifetime.
5. Some species of cranes can travel for approximately 500 miles in a day while searching for food!
6. In the case of any danger, the male and female cranes come together to defend their territory.
7. The offspring of a crane grows very fast and develops its feathers as early as two to four months of being born.
8. Cranes usually lay 2 eggs and incubate them for at least 30 days.
9. Cranes are diurnal birds. They prefer to stay in their territories during the breeding season while in non-breeding season they remain in their flocks and socialize.
10. Crane depends on the columns of warm air and wind for accomplishing proper length and height of flying.