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By: Efraim Harari

The crane is a large, long-beaked bird that is found nearly all over the world. Cranes live on every continent, with the exceptions of the Antarctic and South America. There are fifteen different species of cranes. Most species require large areas of open space and can be found inhabiting the temperate wetlands and swamps throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.

All species of cranes are large in size, with an average height of forty inches. Some species of cranes, however, such as the Sarus crane, can grow to nearly six feet tall! Cranes have long legs and long necks, with streamlined bodies and large, rounded wings. The males and females are similar in appearance, although the males are usually slightly larger than the females.

Despite their enormous body size, cranes are actually quite agile flyers. Not all species migrate, but the ones that do, fly for very long distances as they migrate between Siberia, China, and Japan.

The crane isan omnivorous bird; it feeds on both plants and animals. Spending their lives close to the water, cranes primarily feed on aquatic organisms, including insects, fish, and amphibians, along with a variety of plants, including grains and tree bark.

Most species of cranes nest in shallow wetlands. Female cranes construct extremely large nests (called platform nests) in shallow water, and generally lay two eggs at a time.Once hatched, the crane chicks are raised by both of their parents until they are strong enough to fledge(fly away from the family nest).

Cranes are highly vocal and are easily recognized by their loud, trumpeting calls which can be heard from long distances. They have many specialized calls, and chicks begin to learn these calls soon after hatching. This enables the chicks to communicate with their parents. Besides helping the cranes maintain contact with each other, specialized calls indicate a crane’s specific needs and intentions, such as the requirement for food, flight intention, or danger.

Due to the sheer size of adult cranes, they have few natural predators within their native environment. Foxes, wildcats, and large birds of prey, including owls and eagles, are the most common predators of the crane; even then it is mainly the crane chicks that are preyed upon.

Sarus Crane

The sarus crane is the tallest flying bird in the world. It stands up to six feet tall and has a wingspan of eight feet. The sarus crane is one of the species of cranes that do not migrate. Sarus cranes can be found in parts of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia.

Did You Know?

The crane’s windpipe is longer than that of any other bird!

Whooping Crane

The whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America, averaging five feet in height. It nests in northwestern North America and, during the winter, on the gulf coast of Texas. The whooping crane is an endangered species, although it has grown from a lowof just fifteen cranes in 1941 to about six hundred of them today.

The whooping crane gets its name from its loud, trumpeting call. The windpipe of the whooping crane is very long, and it coils about nine inches into the crane’s breast bone when it calls.This is what enables the whooping crane to produce sounds that can be heard at great distances.

Japanese Crane

The Japanese crane, also called the red crowned crane, is a large East-Asian crane and is the largest bird in Japan. It stands nearly five feet tall, weighs twenty-two pounds, and can live more than sixty years. It has a red crown, and black and white markings on its wings and body.

Like all cranes, the Japanese cranes are elaborate dancers. They dance in pairs in various situations. The dancing ritual starts when one crane bows its head, flaps its wings, and jumps up and down with outstretched wings. Another crane joins in, and the pair dances in harmony, often inspiring other pairs of cranes to start a dance duet as well.