A pair of sandhill cranes in flight

Cranes

The crane family (Gruidae) includes as members the crowned cranes, the whooping crane and the common crane which has recently become re-established in Britain.

Scientific name: Gruidae

Rank: Family

Distribution

Map showing the distribution of the Cranes taxa

The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

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About

Cranes are a clade (Gruidae) of large, long-legged and long-necked birds in the group Gruiformes. There are fifteen species of crane in four genera. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Cranes live on all continents except Antarctica and South America.

Most species of cranes are at the least classified as threatened, if not critically endangered, within their range. The plight of the whooping cranes of North America inspired some of the first US legislation to protect endangered species.

They 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.

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.

Some species and populations of cranes migrate over long distances; others do not migrate at all. 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.

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BBC News about Cranes