Cranes are large birds with a long neck and legs, a streamlined body, and long, rounded wings.
From their powerful calls to their intricate dances, cranes have enchanted people for centuries.
There are 15 species of crane in 4 genera.
Cranes are found on all continents except in South America and Antarctica.
The lifespan is from 20 to 50 years in the wild, depending on the species. Oldest known crane was Siberian Crane that lived 83 years in captivity.
Cranes range in size from the demoiselle crane, which measures 90 cm (35 in) in length, to the sarus crane [photo below] (the world’s tallest flying bird), which can be up to 180 cm (70 in), although the heaviest is the red-crowned crane, which can weigh 12 kg (26 lb) prior to migrating.
Cranes come with a broad array of adornments from ornamental wattles and crests to dramatic plumage colors.
Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back.
Cranes have been clocked flying 72 kilometers (45 miles) per hour.
The highest-flying are Eurasian cranes, flying over the Himalayas at altitudes up to 10,000 meters (32,800 feet) — that’s cruising altitude for jetliners!
Some species and populations of cranes migrate over long distances; others do not migrate at all.
Cranes are diurnal birds.
The Crane sleeps on one leg with its head under its wing and its other leg drawn up to its body.
These remarkable birds have a vast vocal communication system. Each species has its own tone and volume, from the soft honks of crowned cranes to the flutelike call of Siberian cranes. Cranes also use body language for communication.
Cranes are opportunistic feeders that change their diet according to the season and their own nutrient requirements. They eat a range of items from suitably sized small rodents, fish, amphibians, and insects to grain, berries, and plants.
All cranes, young and old alike, participate in elaborate, enthusiastic “dancing,” often just for the fun of it! For the young, dancing helps to develop physical and social skills. It serves as a courtship ritual for the single adults and gets established pairs ready to breed, too. In a flock of cranes, once a dance starts, it can quickly become contagious, with all the cranes joining in.
Cranes are solitary during the breeding season, occurring in pairs, but during the non-breeding season they are gregarious, forming large flocks where their numbers are sufficient.
Cranes are perennially monogamous breeders, establishing long-term pair bonds that may last the lifetime of the birds. Pair bonds begin to form in the second or third years of life, but it may be several years before the first successful breeding season.
Cranes are territorial and generally seasonal breeders.
Cranes construct platform nests in shallow water, and typically lay two eggs at a time. Both parents help to rear the young, which remain with them until the next breeding season.
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 and mainly their chicks.
Throughout Asia, the crane is a symbol of happiness and eternal youth. In Japan, the crane is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise) and symbolizes good fortune and longevity because of its fabled life span of a thousand years.
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.
In China, several styles of kung fu take inspiration from the movements of cranes in the wild, the most famous of these styles being Wing Chun, Hung Gar (tiger crane), and the Shaolin Five Animals style of fighting. Crane movements are well known for their fluidity and grace.
Greek and Roman myths often portrayed the dance of cranes as a love of joy and a celebration of life, and the crane was often associated with both Apollo and Hephaestus.
Ancient Egyptians decorated their tombs with images of cranes.
The flag of Uganda features a crowned crane, making it one of the few national flags to bear the image of a bird.
Cranes are among the oldest living birds on the planet. A crane fossil found in the Ashfall Fossil Beds in northeast Nebraska, estimated to be about 10 million years old.