Return of the native

Standing up to four feet tall and with a wingspan of over seven feet, the common crane is undoubtedly one of Europe's most charismatic birds. Especially in spring, when they migrate to their breeding grounds in huge flocks. The birds renew their pair bonds by dancing - one of Europe's greatest wildlife spectacles. But what about cranes in Britain? History books tell us that they were once quite common - in 1212 King John hunted them with falcons and a royal feast featured 204 roasted cranes cooked in a mustard and vinegar sauce. Unfortunately, the taste for cranes was so voracious, that the last known pair of cranes to breed in Britain was recorded in 1543 in Hickling in Norfolk. Four hundred years later, in 1979, there were rumours that cranes were again breeding there - and it was true. So for 30 years there has been an almost secret population breeding here, but there are only three or four pairs in one isolated corner of Britain. Hopefully one day they will return in greater numbers.

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