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Gruidae Index – Cranes
Gruidae Index - Cranes

Gruidae Index – Cranes

Cranes belong to the order Gruiformes, which means “crane-like”. Cranes are large, long-legged, and long-necked waders. Waders are a diverse group of birds that feed by wading through shallow waters. To facilitate this, they typically have long legs. Many waders also have long, flexible necks and long bills for foraging in water or spearing prey. Birds in this group also include storks, herons, ibises, spoonbills, and flamingos.

Unlike the herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched and not pulled back. They are opportunistic feeders that change their diet according to the season and their nutritional requirements. They have a wide and varied diet. Prey items include small rodents, fish, amphibians, and insects. They also eat plant foods such as grain, berries, and plants. During the breeding season, cranes are territorial. During winter, they are sociable and form groups.

The order includes cranes, crakes, and rails, and several other bird families as listed below:

  • Aramidae – Limpkin
  • Gruidae – Cranes
  • Heliornithidae – Finfoots
  • Psophiidae – Trumpeters
  • Rallidae – Coots, Gallinules, Moorhens
  • Rallidae – Crakes, Rails
  • Sarothruridae – Flufftails

There are fourteen species of cranes.

Let’s take a look at the different genera and species

1. Genus Anthropoides


This genus contains the Blue Crane and Demoiselle Crane. They are birds of the dry, grassy uplands which feed on seeds and insects and spend little time in wetlands.

1.1. Blue Crane (Stanley Crane), Anthropoides paradisea

Blue Crane
Image By Brian Snelson

Description: The blue crane has pale blue-gray plumage, with a light gray to whitish crown and face. Its gray bill has a pink tinge. It has a large, angular head.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Grasslands, hills, valleys, plains, and pasturelands, typically near wetlands, especially during the breeding season.

Conservation status: Blue cranes are vulnerable due to habitat destruction, indiscriminate persecution, and indirect poisoning.

Blue Crane closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Blue Crane habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Blue Crane adult
Image By Dick Daniels
Blue Crane juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Blue Crane feathering
Image By Sandy Cole

1.2. Demoiselle Crane, Anthropoides virgo

Demoiselle Crane
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: The Demoiselle crane has a blue-gray body and a blackish-gray head and neck with long white plumes extending from the eyes to the back of the head down the nape.

Range: Asia and Africa.

Habitat: Drier habitats such as desert, steppe, open fields, and plains usually near water, especially in the breeding season.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Demoiselle Crane feathering
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane eyes
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane adult
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Demoiselle Crane description
Image By Dick Daniels

2. Genus Balearica

The crowned cranes are the only cranes that can roost in trees.

2.1. Black-Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

Black-Crowned Crane
Image By Fabien Khan

Description: The black-crowned crane has mostly black plumage, red cheeks, a black forehead, and its characteristic golden crown. Its wings are mainly white with black primary flight feathers and purplish-brown secondaries. It is similar to the gray-crowned crane, but the latter has mostly gray plumage and white cheeks.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Shallow wetlands, grasslands, marshes, river edges, and lakesides.

Conservation status: Vulnerable due to wetland degradation.

Black-Crowned Crane closeup
Image By M Kuhn
Black-Crowned Crane habitat
Image By Andy
Black-Crowned Crane in flight
Image By Steve Garvie

2.2. Gray-Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum

Gray-Crowned Crane
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The gray-crowned crane has mostly gray plumage, white cheeks, a black forehead, a red gular sac, and a characteristic golden crown. Its wings are mainly white with black primary flight feathers and purplish-brown secondaries. It is similar to the black-crowned crane, but the latter has mainly black plumage and red cheeks.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Marshes, grasslands, agricultural lands.

Conservation status: The gray crowned crane is endangered due to habitat destruction and indirect poisoning.

Gray-Crowned Crane feathering
Image By Charles J Sharp
Gray-Crowned Crane closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Gray-Crowned Crane juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Gray-Crowned Crane habitat
Image By Sandy Cole
Gray-Crowned Crane description
Image By Dick Daniels

3. Genus Bugeranus

3.1. Wattled Crane, Bugeranus carunculatus

Wattled Crane
Image By Adam Dewan

Description: The wattled crane has a gray back, wings, and crown, a white lower head, neck, wattles, and upper breast, and red facial skin.

Range: Africa.

Habitat: Dense wetlands and marshes.

Conservation status: Wattled cranes are vulnerable due to habitat destruction, collision with powerlines, and human disturbances.

Wattled Crane closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Wattled Crane habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Wattled Crane feathering
Image By Dick Daniels

4. Genus Grus

4.1. Brogla, Grus rubicunda

Brogla
Image By Birdaspoetry

Description: The brolga has mainly gray plumage, a bare gray-green crown, a red face and throat pouch, gray ear coverts, a grayish-green bill, yellowish-orange eyes, and grayish-black legs. It is similar to the sarus crane, but the latter has a red upper neck.

Range: Australia.

Habitat: Wetlands, floodplains, grasslands, marshes, shallow lakes, pasturelands, croplands, and wet meadows.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Brogla description
Image By David Cook
Brogla closeup
Image By Jjron
Brogla habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Brogla drawing
Image By John Gould
Brogla in flight
Image By Birdaspoetry

4.2. Black-Necked Crane, Grus nigricollis

Black-Necked Crane
Image By Eric Savage

Description: The black-necked crane has mainly gray plumage with a black head and neck and a black tail. It is similar to the common crane, but the latter has a gray and black neck and a gray tail.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Alpine meadows, riverine marshes, river valleys, lakesides, and agricultural fields.

Conservation status: The black-necked crane is near-threatened, mainly due to habitat destruction.

Black-Necked Crane closeup
Image By Eric Kilby
Black-Necked Crane habitat
Image By Ed Gaillard
Black-Necked Crane feathering
Image By Dave Curtis

4.3. Common Crane (Eurasian Crane), Grus grus

Common Crane
Image By Snapp3r

Description: The common crane has mainly gray plumage, darkest on the rump, and paler on the breast and wings. It has a blackish forehead and a red crown. It is similar to the black-necked crane, but the latter has an all-black neck and a black tail.

Range: Europe and Asia.

Habitat: High altitude forests, moors, bogs, heathland, marshy wetlands, swamps, and wet meadows.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Common Crane closeup
Image By Marek Szczepanek
Common Crane in flight
Image By Andreas Trepte
Common Crane habitat
Image By Kunan Naik

4.4. Hooded Crane, Grus monachal

Hooded Crane
Image By Viktor Kravtchenko

Description: The hooded crane has a dark gray body with a white upper neck and a white head with bare red skin above the eye.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, bogs, grasslands, agricultural land, rice paddies, river edges, lakesides, and marshes.

Conservation status: The hooded crane is vulnerable due to habitat destruction.

Hooded Crane closeup
Image By Tom Suke
Hooded Crane feathering
Image By Scorpions And Centaurs
Hooded Crane habitat
Image By Marcel Holyoak

4.5. Red-Crowned Crane, Grus japonensis

Red-Crowned Crane
Image By KongfuWang

Description: The red-crowned crane has mainly white plumage with a black neck and tail and a bare-skinned red crown. White stripes extend from the eye down the nape. The male has black cheeks, and the female has gray cheeks.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, rivers, rice paddies, and mudflats.

Conservation status: The red-crowned crane is endangered due to habitat destruction, poaching, poisoning, and human disturbance.

Red-Crowned Crane feathering
Image By Lonelyshrimp
Red-Crowned Crane habitat
Image By Mike Souza
Red-Crowned Crane closeup
Image By KCZooFan

4.6. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

Sandhill Crane
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The sandhill crane has mainly gray plumage with a red forehead, white cheeks, and a long dark bill. During the breeding season, the gray in its plumage has a rusty tinge.

Range: North America and Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, bogs, prairies, wet meadows, croplands, pasturelands, and grasslands.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Sandhill Crane juvenile
Image By Tgreyfox
Sandhill Crane adult
Image By Dick Daniels
Sandhill Crane closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Sandhill Crane foraging
Image By Dick Daniels
Sandhill Crane feathering
Image By David Daniels
Sandhill Crane description
Image By Aron Lembke
Sandhill Crane habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

4.7. Sarus Crane, Grus Antigone

Sarus Crane
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The sarus crane has mainly gray plumage with black wingtips, a red head, and a gray crown. It has gray ear patches, a black and red upper neck. It is similar to the brolga, but the latter does not have a red neck.

Range: Asia and Australia.

Habitat: Shallow wetlands, marshes, ponds, rice paddies, wet grasslands, and agricultural areas.

Conservation status: The sarus crane is vulnerable due to habitat destruction, poaching, and pollution.

Sarus Crane closeup
Image By Sandy Cole
Sarus Crane habitat
Image By Koshy Koshy
Sarus Crane in flight
Image By JM Garg
Sarus Crane feathering
Image By JM Garg

4.8. Siberian Crane, (Siberian White Crane), Grus leucogeranus

Siberian Crane
Image By Tom Suke

Description: The Siberian crane has white plumage with black wingtips and bare red skin on the forehead and face.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, and lakesides.

Conservation status: The Siberian crane is critically endangered due to habitat destruction, poaching, poisoning, and pollution.

Siberian Crane feathering
Image By Hiyashi Haka
Siberian Crane closeup
Image By Global Environment Facility
Siberian Crane habitat
Image By BS Thurner Hof

4.9. White-Naped Crane, Grus vipio

Image By Bakker

Description: The white-naped crane has a gray body with a white nape and head. It has red facial skin, gray ear patches, and black coverts near the base of the bill.

Range: Asia.

Habitat: Wetlands, grassy marshes, reedbeds, and croplands.

Conservation status: They are vulnerable due to habitat destruction and poaching.

White-Naped Crane closeup
Image By Spaceaero2
White-Naped Crane in flight
Image By Spaceaero2
White-Naped Crane description
Image By Sandy Cole – Central Zoo Of Nepal
White-Naped Crane feathering
Image By Sandy Cole – Central Zoo Of Nepal
White-Naped Crane habitat
Image By Sandy Cole – Central Zoo Of Nepal

4.10. Whooping Crane, Grus americana

Whooping Crane
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: The whooping crane has white plumage with a red crown and black wingtips.

Range: North America.

Habitat: Forests, moors, ponds, wetlands, croplands, and coastal environments (during winter).

Conservation status: The whooping crane is critically endangered due to habitat destruction, collision with power lines, illegal shooting, and human disturbance.

Whooping Crane habitat
Image By John Noll
Whooping Crane juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Whooping Crane closeup
Image By Lyn Anynom
Whooping Crane in flight
Image By Wisconsin Dept. Of Nat. Resources
Whooping Crane feathering
Image By Steve Gifford