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Sarus Crane

Crane, Sarus

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Description

Reaching nearly 6 feet in height, sarus cranes are the largest of the crane species. The plumage of these cranes is mostly a uniform slate-gray, other than darker gray outer primary flight feathers, lighter gray-white feathers at the top of the neck, and a striking red head. In adults, this bright red gives way to a pale bald spot at the apex of the skull. Sarus cranes have a larger beak compared to their body size than most other crane species.

Classification

Overview
The sarus crane is a bird in the gruid, or crane family. The order that cranes belong to, Gruiformes, contains more than 140 species of smaller, largely wetland dwelling birds, including rails, crakes, coots, flufftails, finfoots, trumpeters, and limpkin.
Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Gruidae
Genus
Antigone
Species
A. antigone

Key Facts

Conservation Status
Vulnerable
Lifespan
up to 42 years in a small sample size (36 birds), more data needed
Height
up to ~5.8 ft (176 cm)
Weight
Indian subspecies 15.0 – 27.0 lbs (6.8 – 12.2 kg); SE Asian & Australian subspecies 11.5 – 18.5 lbs (5.2 – 8.4 kg)
Wingspan
7.2 – 9.2 ft (220 – 280 cm)

The IUCN Red List describes the sarus crane as Vulnerable, which is the least imperiled of the three IUCN ‘threatened with risk of extinction’ designations—Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered. The most recent assessment in 2016 found a decreasing population of ~13,000 – 15,000 mature individuals and ~19,000 – 22,000 total individuals in the wild. The major reason for this decline appears to be habitat loss due to the ongoing conversion of wetlands for agricultural uses, as well as fluctuations in wetland habitat due to climate change. Ingestion of pesticides as well as persecution as crop pests are also contributing factors.

As with all large-scale conservation initiatives, a wide array of government, university, and non-profit conservation organizations have come together to protect the sarus crane. The IUCN Species Survival Commission for the sarus crane, in conjunction with the International Crane Foundation and the Nature Conservation Foundation in India have written a species review & status update that details dozens of research projects that have helped gain a better understanding of sarus crane ecology and inform conservation decision making. There are also many community conservation and education projects that are involving locals in protecting sarus cranes, from northern India and Nepal to mainland Southeast Asia to northern Australia. One notable community conservation effort is that of the Wildlife Trust of India, who has helped set up a network of volunteers that identify, monitor, and protect hundreds of sarus crane nests in the wetlands and farmlands of the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, of which the sarus crane is the state bird.

Social Life:
Though considered to be among the least social of the crane species, sarus cranes will occasionally form small flocks outside the breeding season. During the breeding season, mated pairs isolate themselves and will behave aggressively toward any perceived intruder on their nesting territory.

Cranes are monogamous—mated pairs will stay together throughout the course of a year and share chick-rearing duties, and will sometimes remain together over many years until one bird dies. Studies on the most extensively studied crane, the sandhill crane, have found that if pairs are continuously unsuccessful in their reproductive efforts, there is a good chance the pair will split, while pairs that successfully raise chicks often stay together.

Sarus cranes perform extravagant dances like those of other crane species, which incorporate elaborate bobbing and wing displays. Loud, trumpeting calls are often incorporated into these displays. This dancing has a variety of functions: in young birds it is likely a form of their physical and behavioral development, in unpaired adult birds it is a form of socialization and pair formation, and in paired birds it may serve to strengthen the pair bond.

Habitat and Range:
Sarus cranes are split in 3 relatively isolated populations that have been classified as 3 separate subspecies. The nominate subspecies is found in northern India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. Another subspecies is spread across the mainland of Southeast Asia on the Indochinese peninsula. The final subspecies is found in northern Australia.

These cranes are considered non-migratory. They will move varying distances locally depending on the duration and intensity of the rainy season, but do not undertake any cross-continental migrations. Sarus cranes prefer natural wetlands, though they have proven adaptable to agricultural wetlands such as rice paddies.

Diet
Cranes are largely opportunistic, generalist feeders that will eat a wide range of plant and animal foods. Sarus cranes are omnivores, eating fish, frogs, insects and plant matter. In adapting to the advance of agriculture, sarus cranes have developed a taste for soybean and cucumber crops. This has resulted in these birds being considered pests by some farmers.

Predators:
Wild dogs, jackals, and house crows are counted among the sarus crane’s predators. Humans are also know to prey on the cranes and their eggs.

Reproduction:
Sexual Maturity:  Unknown
Mating season:     June – September, but is dependent on the rainy season
Incubation:           31 – 34 days
No. of young:        Typically 2 eggs per clutch

Information

Description

Reaching nearly 6 feet in height, sarus cranes are the largest of the crane species. The plumage of these cranes is mostly a uniform slate-gray, other than darker gray outer primary flight feathers, lighter gray-white feathers at the top of the neck, and a striking red head. In adults, this bright red gives way to a pale bald spot at the apex of the skull. Sarus cranes have a larger beak compared to their body size than most other crane species.

Classification

Overview
The sarus crane is a bird in the gruid, or crane family. The order that cranes belong to, Gruiformes, contains more than 140 species of smaller, largely wetland dwelling birds, including rails, crakes, coots, flufftails, finfoots, trumpeters, and limpkin.
Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Gruidae
Genus
Antigone
Species
A. antigone

Key Facts

Conservation Status
Vulnerable
Lifespan
up to 42 years in a small sample size (36 birds), more data needed
Height
up to ~5.8 ft (176 cm)
Weight
Indian subspecies 15.0 – 27.0 lbs (6.8 – 12.2 kg); SE Asian & Australian subspecies 11.5 – 18.5 lbs (5.2 – 8.4 kg)
Wingspan
7.2 – 9.2 ft (220 – 280 cm)

The IUCN Red List describes the sarus crane as Vulnerable, which is the least imperiled of the three IUCN ‘threatened with risk of extinction’ designations—Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered. The most recent assessment in 2016 found a decreasing population of ~13,000 – 15,000 mature individuals and ~19,000 – 22,000 total individuals in the wild. The major reason for this decline appears to be habitat loss due to the ongoing conversion of wetlands for agricultural uses, as well as fluctuations in wetland habitat due to climate change. Ingestion of pesticides as well as persecution as crop pests are also contributing factors.

As with all large-scale conservation initiatives, a wide array of government, university, and non-profit conservation organizations have come together to protect the sarus crane. The IUCN Species Survival Commission for the sarus crane, in conjunction with the International Crane Foundation and the Nature Conservation Foundation in India have written a species review & status update that details dozens of research projects that have helped gain a better understanding of sarus crane ecology and inform conservation decision making. There are also many community conservation and education projects that are involving locals in protecting sarus cranes, from northern India and Nepal to mainland Southeast Asia to northern Australia. One notable community conservation effort is that of the Wildlife Trust of India, who has helped set up a network of volunteers that identify, monitor, and protect hundreds of sarus crane nests in the wetlands and farmlands of the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, of which the sarus crane is the state bird.

Social Life:
Though considered to be among the least social of the crane species, sarus cranes will occasionally form small flocks outside the breeding season. During the breeding season, mated pairs isolate themselves and will behave aggressively toward any perceived intruder on their nesting territory.

Cranes are monogamous—mated pairs will stay together throughout the course of a year and share chick-rearing duties, and will sometimes remain together over many years until one bird dies. Studies on the most extensively studied crane, the sandhill crane, have found that if pairs are continuously unsuccessful in their reproductive efforts, there is a good chance the pair will split, while pairs that successfully raise chicks often stay together.

Sarus cranes perform extravagant dances like those of other crane species, which incorporate elaborate bobbing and wing displays. Loud, trumpeting calls are often incorporated into these displays. This dancing has a variety of functions: in young birds it is likely a form of their physical and behavioral development, in unpaired adult birds it is a form of socialization and pair formation, and in paired birds it may serve to strengthen the pair bond.

Habitat and Range:
Sarus cranes are split in 3 relatively isolated populations that have been classified as 3 separate subspecies. The nominate subspecies is found in northern India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. Another subspecies is spread across the mainland of Southeast Asia on the Indochinese peninsula. The final subspecies is found in northern Australia.

These cranes are considered non-migratory. They will move varying distances locally depending on the duration and intensity of the rainy season, but do not undertake any cross-continental migrations. Sarus cranes prefer natural wetlands, though they have proven adaptable to agricultural wetlands such as rice paddies.

Diet
Cranes are largely opportunistic, generalist feeders that will eat a wide range of plant and animal foods. Sarus cranes are omnivores, eating fish, frogs, insects and plant matter. In adapting to the advance of agriculture, sarus cranes have developed a taste for soybean and cucumber crops. This has resulted in these birds being considered pests by some farmers.

Predators:
Wild dogs, jackals, and house crows are counted among the sarus crane’s predators. Humans are also know to prey on the cranes and their eggs.

Reproduction:
Sexual Maturity:  Unknown
Mating season:     June – September, but is dependent on the rainy season
Incubation:           31 – 34 days
No. of young:        Typically 2 eggs per clutch