White Crane or Siberian Crane — a large bird with a deafeningly loud voice. White cranes are very hardy birds. Nesting in these birds occurs in the northern part of our country, in winter the birds fly to warm countries in places with a mild and warm climate. The flight of the Siberian Cranes is a very beautiful sight, however? perhaps soon we will not be able to observe equal wedges of cranes flying for the winter in autumn, because every year these birds become less and less.
Origin of the species and description
The White Crane or the Siberian Crane belongs to the animal kingdom, the type of chordates, the class of birds, the crane family, the genus Cranes, the type of Siberian Crane. Cranes are very ancient birds, the crane family formed during the Eocene, about 40-60 million years ago. The ancient birds were somewhat different from the representatives of this family that are familiar to us now, they were larger than modern relatives, there is a difference in the appearance of birds.
Video: White crane
Close relatives of White cranes are Psophiidae trumpeters and Aramidae shepherd cranes. In ancient times, these birds were known to people, this is evidenced by rock inscriptions depicting these beautiful birds. The species Grus leucogeranus was first described by the Soviet ornithologist K.A. Vorobyov in 1960.
Cranes are large birds with long necks and long legs. The wingspan of the bird is more than 2 meters. The height of the Siberian Crane is 140 cm. During the flight, cranes stretch their neck forward and down their legs, in this they are similar to storks, but unlike these birds, cranes do not have the habit of perching on trees. Cranes have a small head, with a long, pointed beak. On the head near the beak there is a patch of unfeathered skin. In Siberian Cranes, this area is bright red. The plumage is white, the flight feathers on the wings are brown-red. Juveniles may have rufous spots on the back or neck.
Appearance and Features
Cranes are very beautiful birds. They are a real decoration of any nursery or zoo. The weight of an adult is from 5.5 to 9 kg. Height from head to toe 140-160 cm, wingspan about 2 meters. Males are usually much larger than females, and males also have a longer beak. The plumage of the Siberian Cranes is predominantly white, the flight feathers on the wings are dark, almost black.
On the head around the beak there is a patch of bare skin of red color. Because of what, the bird looks a little intimidating, although the first impression is justified, the nature of white cranes is quite aggressive. The beak is also red, straight and long. Juveniles have light brown plumage. Sometimes there may be red spots on the sides and back. Birds wear a youthful outfit until about 2-2.5 years later, the color of the bird changes to pure white.
The look of the bird is alert, the iris of an adult is yellow. The limbs are long and even pinkish in color. There are no plumage on the legs, there are 4 fingers on each limb, the middle and outer fingers are connected by membranes. Vocalization — Siberian Cranes chirp very loudly, this chirp can be heard from the ground during the flight. Cranes also make very loud sounds during their mating dances.
Interesting fact: The voice of the crane resembles the sound of a musical instrument. While singing, people perceive the sound as a gentle cooing.
White cranes are considered real long-livers among birds in the wild, these birds can live up to 70 years. Cranes are able to bear offspring from the age of 6-7.
Where does the white crane live?
White cranes have a very limited habitat. These birds nest only on the territory of our country. At the moment, there are only two populations of white cranes. These populations are isolated from each other. The first western population is distributed in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, in the Komi Republic and the Arkhangelsk Region. The second population is considered eastern, the cranes of this population nest in the northern part of Yakutia.
The western population breeds near the mouth of the Mezen River, and in the east in the floodplains of the Kunovat River. And also these birds can be found on the Ob. The eastern population likes to nest in the tundra. For nesting Siberian Cranes choose deserted places with a humid climate. These are river openings, swampy swamps in forests. White cranes are migratory birds and travel great distances in order to spend the winter in warm countries.
In winter, white cranes can be found in the swamps of India and northern Iran. In our country, Siberian Cranes winter near the coast of Shomal, which is located in the Caspian Sea. Yakutian cranes like to winter in China, where these birds have chosen the valley near the Yangtze River. During nesting, birds build their nests on the water. For nests choose the most closed places. Bird nests are quite large and consist of sedge. The dwelling of the Siberian Cranes is a large pile of juicy grass, in which a recess is made. The nest usually rises above the water level by 20 cm.
Now you know where the white crane lives. Let's see what he eats.
What does the White Crane eat?
White cranes are omnivorous and little picky about food.
The diet of white cranes includes:
- seeds and berries are especially fond of cranberries and cloudberries;
- frogs and amphibians;
- small rodents;
- small birds;
- eggs of small birds;
- algae and roots of aquatic plants;
- cotton grass and sedge;
- small insects, bugs and arthropods.
In their habitual habitat, they often eat plant foods and berries. As a nutritious food, they like to eat fish, frogs. Sometimes rodents. During wintering, they eat what they find at the wintering place. Unlike many other birds, white cranes, even in famine years, never fly to the places of crops and to human dwellings. Birds do not like people, even under fear of death from hunger, they will not come to a person. If the cranes notice people near their nest, the birds can leave the nest forever.
In obtaining food, cranes are very helpful in their beak. Birds catch and kill their prey with their beak. Cranes fish out of the water with their beaks. To extract rhizomes, cranes dig the ground with their beaks. Birds pick up seeds and small bugs directly from the ground. In captivity, birds are fed with grain, fish, small rodents and eggs. And also in captivity, cranes are given the meat of small birds, seeds and feed of plant origin. In terms of nutritional value, such a diet is in no way inferior to what birds eat in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Cranes are quite aggressive birds. Often the chicks of the Siberian Cranes kill each other only after hatching from the egg. Cranes are also aggressive towards people, especially during the nesting period. They are very secretive, do not tolerate the presence of a person nearby. White cranes are very demanding in terms of habitat; they settle in the openings of freshwater rivers and swamps. In this case, only shallow rivers are selected.
It is very important for these birds that there is always a supply of clean fresh water nearby. Cranes are very connected with water, they make nests on it, in it they also spend most of their time catching fish and frogs, feasting on underwater plants. White cranes are migratory birds. In summer, they nest in the north of Russia and the Far East, and fly to warm countries for the winter.
Birds have a developed social structure, if during nesting birds live in pairs, during flights they behave like flocking birds. They fly in a clear wedge and obey the leader. During nesting, both the male and the female contribute to the life of the family. Birds build nests together, take care of their offspring together.
Cranes fly away for wintering in September, returning to their usual habitats in late April-mid-May. The flight lasts about 15-20 days. During flights, cranes fly at an altitude of 700-1000 meters above the ground at a speed of about 60 km per hour over land and about 100 km per hour over the sea. In one day, a flock of cranes can fly up to 400 km. During the winter, they can stay together in large flocks. This makes the birds feel more secure.
Interesting fact: Cranes are proud birds, they never sit on tree branches. Sitting on branches bending under their weight is not for them.
Social structure and reproduction
Cranes arrive at their nesting sites from wintering in late April May. At this time, their mating season begins. Before starting a family, the cranes have a real wedding ceremony, during which males and females unite with very beautiful singing, making a lot of clean and beautiful sounds. During singing, males usually spread their wings wide to the sides and throw back their heads, while the female leaves her wings in a folded position. In addition to singing, mating games are accompanied by interesting dances, perhaps this dance calms one of the partners if he is aggressive, or serves as a means to strengthen relationships between individuals.
The nest is built by birds on the water, both the male and the female participate in this process. During one mating season, the female, with a break of several days, lays 2 large eggs weighing about 214 grams. In some individuals, under adverse conditions, the clutch may consist of only one egg. Incubation of the eggs is done mainly by the female, although sometimes the male comes to her aid, usually he replaces the female during the day. Incubation lasts a whole month. During the incubation of eggs by the female, the male is always somewhere nearby and guards his family.
A month later, 2 chicks are born. In the first 40 days, the chicks are very aggressive towards each other. Most often, one of the chicks dies, and the strongest remains to live. But if both chicks survive by the age of 40 days, the chicks stop fighting among themselves and behave relatively calmly. In hatcheries, usually one egg is removed from the clutch and the chick is raised by people. In this case, both chicks will survive. Juveniles are able to follow their parents a few hours after hatching from the nest. When the chicks get to their feet, the whole family leaves the nest and retires to the tundra. These birds live there until they leave for the winter.
Natural enemies of white cranes
White cranes are quite large and aggressive birds, so adult Siberian Cranes have no enemies in the wild. Few animals would dare to offend this bird. But young chicks and clutches of Siberian Cranes are constantly in danger.
Crane nests can be destroyed by predators such as:
- marsh harrier;
- eagles and crows.
Migrating herds of deer often frighten storks and force them to leave their nests, and birds are often frightened by herds of domestic deer with people and dogs. There are few chicks that survive to adulthood, if the clutch is small and the youngest of the chicks is often killed by the older one. But still, man has become the most dangerous enemy for these birds. Not even the people themselves, but our consumer lifestyle has put the Siberian Cranes under the threat of extinction. People strengthen riverbeds, dry up reservoirs in the natural habitats of these birds, and there are no places for Siberian Cranes to rest and nest.
White cranes are very sensitive to their habitat and live only near water bodies, and in places inaccessible to humans. If water bodies and swamps dry up, birds have to look for a new nesting place. If there is none, the birds simply do not bear offspring that year. Every year, fewer adults breed, and even fewer chicks survive to adulthood. Today, white cranes are bred in captivity. In the hatcheries, the eggs and chicks are looked after by experienced ornithologists, when the birds grow up they are sent to live in the wild.
Population and species status
Today, the population of white cranes worldwide is only about 3,000 individuals. Moreover, the western population of Siberian Cranes consists of only 20 individuals. This means that the western population of the Siberian Crane is on the verge of extinction and the prospects for the development of the population are not at all good. After all, birds do not want to breed in their natural habitat, since they simply have nowhere to build nests. This is due to the fact that the birds are very picky about their habitat.
During migration and wintering Siberian Cranes can settle in different places, but these birds nest exclusively in shallow water where the birds spend the night.
In winter, birds migrate to the China Valley near the Yangtze River. At the moment, these places are densely populated by humans, most of the land near the habitats of the Siberian Cranes is used for agricultural purposes. And as you know, the Siberian Cranes do not tolerate neighborhood with people.
In addition, in our country, oil is extracted in nesting places and the swamps are drained. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, these birds are often hunted, but since the late 70s, hunting for Siberian Cranes has been banned throughout the world. At the moment, the species Grus leucogeranus is listed in the Red Book and has the status of a species that is on the verge of extinction. In recent years, active work has been carried out to preserve both this species and other representatives of the crane family. A reserve fund has been created in Russia. In China, a park-reserve has been created in the wintering areas of white cranes.
White Cranes Conservation
In 1973, the International Crane Conservation Foundation was established. In 1974, a document on cooperation in the field of environmental protection was signed between the Soviet Union and America. In 1978, a special crane sanctuary was established in Wisconsin, where eggs from white cranes found in the wild were delivered. Ornithologists from the USA raised chicks and delivered them to the wild.
Today, in Russia, China, the USA and Belgium, ornithologists grow cranes in nature reserves. Ornithologists, knowing about the competition between chicks, take one egg from the clutch and raise the chick on their own. At the same time, ornithologists try not to tie the chicks to a person, and they use special camouflage to care for the chicks.
An interesting fact: To care for the chicks, ornithologists use special white camouflage suits, this reminds the chicks their mother. Juveniles also learn to fly with the help of humans. The birds follow a special mini-plane, which they mistake for the leader of the flock. This is how the birds make their first migratory flight «flight of Hope».
Today, such manipulations for rearing chicks are carried out in the Oka Reserve. In addition, national parks and reserves operate on the territory of Yakutia, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Tyumen.
The white crane is truly amazing birds, and it is a pity that there are so few of these beautiful and graceful birds left on our planet. Let's hope that the efforts of ornithologists will not be in vain, and the chicks that are raised in captivity will be able to live in the wild and breed.