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Gruidae – Cranes

Grey Crowned Crane in Kenya: Photo by Nathan Mixon

Cranes are among the most iconic birds of open landscapes, known for their elegant appearance and elaborate courtship dances. They inhabit a variety of habitats, from wetlands and grasslands to agricultural fields and tundras, and many species undertake long migrations. Cranes are large birds with long legs and necks, and their loud, resonant calls can be heard across great distances. They often form lifelong pair bonds and are social, often seen in flocks outside the breeding season. Cranes play significant cultural roles worldwide and are symbols of luck, longevity, and peace in many traditions.

Overview of Gruidae

Cranes are elegant representatives of open landscapes, known for their haunting calls and exuberant courtship dances that have held deep cultural significance for centuries. While crowned-cranes boast golden crests and strikingly patterned wings, most species feature subtler gray or white plumage accented with black and varying areas of bare red facial skin. They fly with their necks outstretched, a distinctive feature. Few natural scenes can rival the sight of thousands of cranes gathering at dusk during spring migration, calling and occasionally dancing as they anticipate the breeding season ahead.