Fun-filled Crane Facts

Inspired by our visit to the International Crane Foundation (ICF), here are a bunch of crane facts. Enjoy!

  1. There are 15 species of cranes in the world
  2. Cranes are found on all continents but Antarctica and South America
  3. It is a mystery why cranes do not live in South America; no fossils have been found there (yet)
  4. Cranes are divided into four genera
  5. Eleven species of crowned cranes once existed in Europe and North America but most likely went extinct as the earth cooled
  6. Six species of cranes are considered endangered: Blue, Red-crowned, Sarus, Siberian, Wattled, and Whooping
  7. Five species of cranes are considered vulnerable: Black Crowned, Black-necked, Grey Crowned, Hooded, and White-naped
  8. Red Crowned Cranes are the second rarest crane
  9. North America has 2 species of cranes: Whooping and Sandhill
  10. Sandhill Cranes are the most abundant of the cranes with a population around 650,000
  11. “Mississippi” Sandhill Cranes are also considered endangered
  12. “Florida” Sandhill Cranes are threatened {these two are subspecies of Sandhill Cranes}
  13. Siberian Crane
    Siberian Crane

  14. The International Crane Foundation began in 1973
  15. George Archibald and Ron Sauey desired to create a “species bank” of all the world’s cranes
  16. In 1974 “George Archibald discovered and studied white-naped cranes on their wintering grounds in Korea, then led a successful campaign to save the Han Rive estuary – a critical wintering and migratory area located in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas.” – ICF
  17. In 1976 ICF hatched the first Hooded Crane ever in captivity
  18. In 1981 (my birth year) ICF hatched the first ever Siberian Crane in captivity
  19. In 1985 ICF became the first facility to have all 15 species of cranes
  20. In the 1990s ICF worked with Russia and China to protect the “Amur River, the largest undimmed river in the world, which forms the international border for over 1,000 miles.” – ICF
  21. In 1993 ICF was the first location to breed all 15 species of cranes in captivity
  22. In 1994 “ICF began in innovative community-based conservation and economic development project in south-central China for the villagers living at the Cao Hai Nature Reserve, home to black-necked and Eurasian cranes.” – ICF
  23. In 2001 “ICF became involved in reestablishing an eastern population of whooping cranes by using ultralight aircraft to guide young cranes on migration from Wisconsin to Florida.” – ICF
  24. In 2003 “ICF receives a Global Environment Fund (GEF) grant for the conservation of major wetlands used by Siberian cranes in western and eastern Asia.” – ICF
  25. Sarus Cranes are the tallest crane at six feet
  26. They are also the tallest flying bird in the world
  27. Red-crowned Cranes are the heaviest cranes reaching 26 pounds
  28. The most serious threat to Black Crowned Cranes is illegal capture for the pet trade
  29. The Brolga has a gland by their eye that allows them to secrete salt from the salt water they drink
  30. The Demoiselle Crane was named by Queen Marie Antoinette due to the birds “maiden-like appearance”
  31. Eurasian Cranes can be found in over 80 countries
  32. “Siberian Cranes are the most highly specialized member of the crane family in terms of habitat requirements, morphology, vocalizations, and behavior” – ICF
  33. Male cranes are usually larger than females
  34. Red-crowned Cranes are a Japanese symbol of longevity
  35. Cranes are often mistaken for herons (or egrets)
  36. The best way to distinguish them in flight is that herons fly with a curved neck while cranes fly straight-necked
  37. The Ainu of Hokkaido (an indigenous people of Japan) call the Red-crowned Crane sarurun kamui, “God of the Marsh”
  38. Eurasian Crane
    Eurasian Crane

  39. All cranes are omnivorous
  40. Cranes will eat a lot of seeds and vegetation but will also eat rodents, fish, insects, and even other birds
  41. Cranes will feed at agricultural sights and are sometimes thought of as pests to farmers
  42. ICF is working to implement treated corn seed to farmers; Sandhill Cranes avoid the treated food but will forage in fields (non-destructively) on other foods
  43. Cranes can be of service to farmers as they will eat vermin and insects that would forage on crops
  44. “In Ethiopia, Wattled Cranes take advantage of beetle larvae and other invertebrates that occur in the spoil heaps created by the giant molerat!” – ICF
  45. Cranes face a variety of predators, mostly as unfledged young, where raccoons, fox, wolves, and even bear prey on them
  46. Large birds of prey like Golden Eagles can take down adult birds
  47. However, humans are the biggest predatory threat to cranes
  48. Cranes roost at night in shallow water; the splashing water alerts them to potential danger
  49. Cranes to not have red feathers but instead have bare patches of skin that are red
  50. These red skin patches are used for displays when guarding territory
  51. Cranes will use a variety of low-intensity threats to mark their territory including “threat walk”, “ruffle threat”, and “flap display”
  52. Cranes also have various higher intensity threats including an “arch display” where the bird extends its wings to appear bigger
  53. Cranes will use a “unison call” where both male and female call together to defend their territory and reinforce their bond
  54. Cranes will use “distraction displays” to ward off intruders around their young
  55. Cranes will even use the commonly known “broken wing display” where they feign injury to mislead a predator
  56. Cranes use “guard calls” where a single bird bugles loudly to scare away predators and warn other cranes of danger
  57. Cranes are famous for their elaborate dancing, much of which has been imitated by cultures for hundreds of years
  58. These wild dances can involve jumping and even stick tossing
  59. Cranes form lifelong monogamous bonds (usually)
  60. Crane incubation lasts around 30 days in most species
  61. Siberian Cranes migrate 10,000 miles round trip
  62. Eurasian Cranes can fly higher than 30,000 feet
  63. Cranes do not breed until they are 3-5 years old
  64. The rarer species usually rear only one young per breeding cycle; more common ones will rear two
  65. The first Hooded Crane nest was not discovered until 1974 due to their remote habitat
  66. Siberian Cranes migrate from Russia to winter in India’s Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
  67. Cranes live up to 20-30 years in the wild
  68. The oldest captive crane, a Siberian Crane named Wolf, lived to be 83!!

Have a crane fact you want to share? Let us know!! And don’t forget to check out Whooping Crane Facts for a bunch of info specific to one of North America’s most endangered birds! Much of these facts are from the International Crane Foundation’s excellent website.

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