Sarus Crane

sarus craneGrus antigone is a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. The tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft), they are conspicuous and iconicc species of open wetlands. The sarus crane is easily distinguished from other cranes in the region by the overall grey color and the contrasting red head and upper neck. They forage on marshes and shallow wetlands for roots, tubers, insects, crustaceans and small vertebrate prey. Like other cranes, they form long-lasting pair-bonds and maintain territories within which they perform territorial and courtship displays that include loud trumpeting, leaps and dance-like movements.

In India they are considered symbols of marital fidelity, believed to mate for life and pine the loss of their mates even to the point of starving to death. The main breeding season is during the rainy season, when the pair builds an enormous nest "island," a circular platform of reeds and grasses nearly two meters in diameter and high enough to stay above the shallow water surrounding it.

Sarus crane numbers have declined greatly in the last century and it has been estimated that the current population is a tenth or less (perhaps 2.5%) of the numbers that existed in the 1850s. The stronghold of the species is India, where it is traditionally revered and lives in agricultural lands in close proximity to humans. Elsewhere, the species has been extirpated in many parts of its former range.

HABITAT: Sarus Crane lives mainly in various wetlands such as canals, ponds, marshes, even near humans. They can be found in cultivated areas too, and also in high-altitude wetlands. They breed more inland, but always in wet areas. During dry season, Sarus Crane is found in shallow wetlands, rice fields or wet grasslands.

RANGE: Sarus Crane is resident in N Pakistan and India, Nepal, South-east Asia, and Queensland in Australia.

BEHAVIOR: Sarus Crane feeds on wide range of wetland plants materials, seeds and grains, and also large insects, molluscs, amphibians, reptiles and small vertebrates. When searching for food, Sarus Crane walks slowly, head down. It does not dig, but it probes the soil with its long bill.

Sarus Crane is resident in Australia and India, with only some seasonal dispersion in dry period. We can observe some limited migrations in South-east Asia.

Mated pairs perform spectacular displays accompanied by unison calls.

Displays show the birds in standing posture, with head thrown back and bill upwards. Male raises the wings over its back during the unison call, while female keep them closed.

They engage dancing displays, including various different behaviours such as bowing, jumping, running in circles, tossing some plant items and wing-flapping.

These dances often occur during courtship, but they also take part in response to aggression, for relieving tensions, and they strengthen pair bonds.
Sarus Cranes, as other cranes’ species, are usually seen in family groups of up 3 to 5 birds, feeding together.

FLIGHT: Sarus Crane flies with straight neck, and long legs trailing behind them. They perform powerful wing beats, and they are good fliers.

REPRODUCTION: Sarus Crane breeds during wet season in its range.
They nest on the ground. Bulky nest is made with wetland vegetation. Nest materials are associated with breeding habitat.

Female usually lays 2 eggs, occasionally three. Incubation lasts about 31 to 34 days, mainly by female, while male defends the nest-site.
Chicks leave the nest very soon and remain with parents until they fledge about 85 to 100 days after hatching, when they are able to perform their first flight.

DIET: Sarus Crane is omnivorous, feeding on wide range of food items such as aquatic plants including sedge tubers, rice, seeds and other grains, snails, crustaceans, grasshoppers and other large insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish and small vertebrates.
Sarus Crane forages in both wetlands and uplands.