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< > Grus antigone - Sarus crane (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)

Head of sarus crane - Grus antigone. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone preening. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone preening. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone pair with young chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone. Pair with chick in enclosure. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone - chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Sarus crane - Grus antigone chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Head of sarus crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Heads brolga and sarus cranes.  Click here for full-page view with caption.










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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • The Sarus crane
  • Grus collaris (B474)
  • La Grue collier (French) (B474)
  • Indian crane (B474)
  • Ardea antigone (B474)
  • Grus torquata (B474)
  • Grus orientalis (B474)
  • Antigone antigone (B474) Antigone torquata (B474) Antigone collaris (B474)
  • The white-collared crane
  • de Ringkraan (Dutch)
  • der Halsband Kranch (German) (B474)
  • Saras (Indian) (B474, B481.II.7.w15)
  • Sharpe's crane (Grus antigone sharpii) (B107.w8)
  • Grue antigone (French) (B107.w8)
  • Saruskranich (German) (B107.w8)
  • Grulla Sarus (Spanish) (B107.w8)
  • Grue antigone tropicale (French) (W2.Dec06.w4)
  • Gruella blanco cuello (Spanish) (B481.II.7.w15, W2.Dec06.w4)
  • Grus antigone sharpii - Burmese sarus crane. (B477)
  • Khur-sang (Assam)(B481.II.7.w15)
  • Korchan (Assam)(B481.II.7.w15)
  • Halsband-kranich (German) (B481.II.7.w15)
  • Sarus-kranich (German (B481.II.7.w15)
  • Belyi zhuravl (Russian) (B481.II.7.w15)

Eastern sarus crane Grus antigone

  • The Greater Indian crane (B474)
  • La grue des Indes Orientales (B474)
  • Ardea antigone (B474)
  • Indian crane (B474)
  • Antigone antigone (B474)
  • Grus (Antigone) sharpii (B474)
  • de Indische Kraanvogel (Dutch)
  • la Grue antigone (B474)
  • der Antigone Kranich (German) (B474)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

Major References

B97, B107.w8, B475, B479.w16, B477, B480.8.w8, B481.II.7.w15, W2.Dec06.w4W2.Nov2013.w7, J50.64.w1, J722.22.w1

Aviculture references:
B31, B97, B115.2.w7, B479.w16, D437, J23.10.w3,  J23.17.w5, J50.64.w1, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1


(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques


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Aviculture Information


General Information:
  • Cranes are tall birds with a long beak and sharp claws, and can be aggressive. Their ability to injure humans must be considered in enclosure design and handling. (B115.2.w7, B197.9.w9)
  • Most cranes are wetland species, a few being primarily grassland species. They should be given the opportunity to wade and bathe, and to forage and/or dig for food in natural vegetation and soft soil substrates.
  • Good nutrition, with adequate protein and micronutrient levels, is essential for the general health of the cranes and for breeding.
  • Cranes form monogamous pairs and can be extremely territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Therefore it is important to house each pair of adult cranes in a separate enclosure from other cranes, and preferably not directly adjacent to another pair of cranes, particularly of the same species. Visual barriers should be put in place between crane enclosures before the breeding season
  • Care is required when introducing intended mates to each other, to avoid injury to one or both birds; formation of a good pair bond can take time.
  • Cranes are unlikely to breed if they feel insecure, such as in mixed species enclosures with hoofstock, or if there is no part of their enclosure which is free from daily human disturbance.
  • If possible, rotational pens should be provided, such that a pen can be left empty in alternate years, to reduce soil burdens of parasites and pathogenic microorganisms which may otherwise build up to problematic levels; this is particularly important if chicks are to be parent-reared, to avoid overwhelming exposure to e.g. gapeworm very early.

(B115.2.w7, D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1)

Species-specific information:

  • "The Sarus Crane evidently prefers to nest in an enclosure where other cranes are not present and where there is some water as well as a place to hunt for insects." (J50.64.w1)
  • Cope well with the northern European climate, but should be provided with a shelter and may be best confined in this in heavy frosts to avoid frostbite of the toes. (B97)
    • Provide a frost-free shelter in winter, but allow them access to the outside enclosure during the day even in frosty weather. (B31)
    • "Requires to be slept under cover during the winter months." [in East Yorkshire, UK]. (B479.w16)]
  • Tend to be restless in windy weather. (B479.w16)
  • Dig a lot. (B479.w16)
  • Can be kept with other wading bird species in a large area, if not breeding, but in an area which is too small them may attack and spear smaller birds (including stork, flamingo) with their bill. (B31)
  • For breeding, keep a pair in a large area with water and with clumps of bushes. (B31)
    • A pair which were well bonded as indicated by unison calling, egg laying etc. had problems with occasional aggression by the male towards the female. This was found not to be a problem when the pair were moved to a larger enclosure in which the female had more room to withdraw from the male when he was being particularly boisterous. (V.w5)
  • Males may be very aggressive, particularly in defence of the nest. (B479.w16)
  • Sarus cranes will kill and eat birds up to pigeon-size, as well as mice. (B31)
  • At Kansas City Zoo, USA, a pair of sarus cranes successfully bred in a large "African Veldt" enclosure. It was observed that they did not allow other birds (cranes, ostrich and storks) near the nest (within about 24-27 m / 80-90 feet) but allowed zebra Equus burchlli, eland Taurotragus oryx and gnu Connochaetes sp within about 3 m (8-10 feet). (J23.10.w3)
  • Nest built in the open, from uprooted turf; more material was added after the first egg had been laid. (B479.w16)
  • A pair were noted to nest on a small island in a pool, or on the shore near the pool, using straw, twigs, leaves and small branches as nesting materials. Nests of other pairs have been 15-45 ft from water. Some pairs construct substantial nests, others very little in the way of a nest. (J50.64.w1)
  • A "pair" of females was identified by "sets" of three to five eggs. (J50.64.w1)
  • A pair at San Antonio zoo reared chicks on several occasions, including rearing two chicks at the same time. (J50.64.w1)
  • Sarus cranes will often lay a second set of eggs if the eggs are removed
  • Chicks are aggressive to each other:
    • A hand-reared chick provided with a mirror to give it a "companion" directed aggressive behaviour at the reflected image and the mirror had to be removed. (J23.10.w3)
    • Chicks placed together at six weeks old were still aggressive to one another and had to be separated at night initially. (J23.10.w3)
  • Hand-reared chicks tend to become imprinted on humans and will not breed. (B31)
Management Techniques


Bird Husbandry and Management

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

  • Height up to 176 cm for the Indian race. (B107.w8); 152-156 cm. (B475); 156 cm. (B477)
  • Wingspan 220-280 cm. (B107.w8)
  • Males are generally larger than females. (B107.w8)
Adult weight General
  • Grus antigone antigone 6,800-12,240 g. (B107.w8)
  • Grus antigone sharpii 5,400-8,400 g. (B107.w8)
  • Grus antigone gilliae 5,200 - 8,400 g. (B107.w8)
Male --
Female --
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate Cranes general: Crane chicks grow rapidly. Growth of the legs is particularly rapid in the first six weeks, with the wings then developing rapidly after this. (B107.w8)

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Adult Bill Male Pale greenish-fawn, tip paler. (B477) Greenish, tip darker. (B481.II.7.w15) Greenish-horn. (B97)
Variations (If present) Female: --
Eyes (Iris) Male Orange. (B97, B107.w8)
Variations (If present) Orange to yellowish-brownish. (B481.II.7.w15)
Juvenile Bill --
Eyes (Iris) --

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Adult Male
  • Pink. (B107.w8)
  • Pale reddish. (B475)
  • Reddish-pink. (B477)
  • Pinkish-grey. (B479.w16)
  • Reddish. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile --

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Adult Male
  • Grey; head, throat and upper neck bare red skin with sparse black feathers, except crown grey, ear patch (small) grey; neck white below the red skin; tertials white. (B107.w8)
  • Grey, with head and upper neck mainly bare red (brighter in the breeding season), midneck white, primaries blackish, secondaries grey, tertials white. (B475)
  • Grey, with head and neck red featherless skin, crown pale greyish-green, neck below featherless area a broad white band. Primaries and primary coverts black, underwing grey, tertials elongated, whitish, drooping over tail which is grey. (B477)
Variations (If present)
  • Grus antigone sharpeii and Grus antigone gilliae lack the white feathers on the neck and tertials. (B107.w8)
  • Grus antigone sharpii is more uniform, darker grey. (B475)
  • Grus antigone sharpii is a darker grey and lacks white band on neck. (B477)
  • Similar to adult but plumage tinged brown; head and neck feathered. (B107.w8)
  • Duller plumage with feather fringes brownish and head and neck feathered, buffish in colour. (B475)

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Identification Notes

Cranes general: 
  • "Cranes are large to very large birds with long necks and legs, streamlined bodies and long, rounded wings." (B107.w8)
  • Compared to the day-herons, cranes have longer legs and hold their necks straighter. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to egrets, the body is proportionately larger. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to storks, the legs are longer, bodies lighter and bills smaller. (B107.w8)
  • In flight, cranes have their necks straight forwards and their long legs trailing behind, forming a straight line from the bill; in very cold weather the legs may be pulled in against the body. (B107.w8)

Sarus crane specific:

  • (B107.w8)
  • "A very large grey bird with long neck and legs." Bare red head and upper neck, with greenish-grey crown, are diagnostic. (B477)


  • Loud, high-pitched, penetrating calls. (B107.w8)
  • Loud trumpeting (usually by pairs of cranes). (B475)
  • Loud trumpeting, in flight and on the ground, often as a male-female duet. (B477)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Yellowish brown; dorsally marked with two darker lines down the back, ventrally white on the breast, abdomen and wing bases. (B107.w8)
  • "Upper parts, back wings and lower hind-neck, dark fawn or chestnut. Head and upper parts of hind-neck, yellowish fawn; a conspicuous white patch behind each shoulder (wing), an an obscure one on each side of the tail. Sides of the head and neck and underparts, whitish, clouded with fawn. Legs, bill and feet, pinkish-red." (B479.w16)
  • Precocious but weak when just hatched; able to swim well very soon, and walking well by two days old. (B481.II.7.w15)
  • Remain in the nest fo 24-48 hours after hatching (captive data). (J50.64.w1)
  • Cranes general: The initial down is replaced by a second coat of down; this is replaced by feathers. (B107.w8)

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Detailed Anatomy

  • The trachea is coiled and fills most of the anterior half of the sternum. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes have ten functional primary flight feathers (with a vestigial 11th in most species), and 18-25 secondary flight feathers. (B107.w8)

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Reproductive Season

Time of year In wet season: (B107.w8)
  • In India, all year except May and June, peaking July to September. (B107.w8) Major peak July-October; eggs laid August to September; smaller peak February to March. (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • After the monsoons; occasionally in June, more commonly July to September, but also other months (october, November, December, January, February and March, but none April or May. (B480.8.w8)
  • In Australia and south-east Asia, in the wet season (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • In south-east Asia, June to October, during the monsoon season. (B107.w8)
  • In northern Australia, generally January to March. (B107.w8)
  • Mainly July to October, can continue as late as December, even March. (B477)
    • Grus antigone sharpii July to September. (B477)

In captivity:

  • In East Yorkshire, UK, eggs laid late June. (B479.w16)
  • At Kansas City Zoo, USA, eggs were laid in mid July and chicks hatched mid August. (J23.10.w3)
  • In North American zoos (Lincoln Park Zoo, San Antonio), eggs were laid in July, sometimes in August. (J50.64.w1)
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

  • India: large wetlands, also scattered irrigation ditches, village ponds etc. around human settlements. (B107.w8)
  • South-east Asia: isolated wetlands. (B107.w8)
  • Australia: in densely vegetated wetlands, often in more shaded sites than those used by Grus rubicunda - Brolga. (B107.w8)
  • Nest is made from wetland vegetation and other available materials. (B107.w8)
  • On a slight elevation in a flooded paddy field, or in a swamp on a hummock, a large pile of reeds and rushes, 1 m diameter. (B477)
  • A large pile of vegetation and other available material, usually built in water. At Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary in India, nests were placed in open marshy areas, on flooded embankments and amongst trees, usually on a high spot or where stumps are present which will help to support the nest. Nests were added to as the water level rose. One floating nest was found, in a sewer pond. The top of the nests were 3-25.4 cm (mean 17.36 cm) above water level, with the base 94-277 cm (mean 150.7cm) and the top about 90-130 cm across. (B480.8.w8)
  • At Kansas City Zoo, a pair constructed a nest close to the large water hole in their "African Veldt" mixed-species enclosure (about 2.4 m / 8 feet from the edge of the water hole). They dug in the soil to form a mound about 1.2 m diameter and 15 cm high (back and front; 25 cm high at the sides due to development of erosion canals), toped by a 60 x 75 cm ( 2 x 2.5 ft) nest of scattered sticks, stones and feathers. The birds spent about 35-40 days constructing this. (J23.10.w3)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average Usually two. (B107.w8, B477)
  • 2-3. (B107.w8)
  • Usually two, occasionally one or three. (B480.8.w8, B481.II.7.w15)
  • Rarely three or four. (J722.22.w1)
  • Usually one or two chicks raised, very rarely three. (W2.Nov2013.w7, J722.22.w1)
  • Usually only one chick raised even if two hatch. (B480.8.w8)
Egg Description
  • "Greenish or pinkish-white, occasionally spotted and blotched with purple or brown" Average 104.4 by 64.3 mm. (B477) Grus antigone sharpii average 102.5 by 64.9 mm. (B477)
  • Background colour whitish, with sparse fawn or sandy red spots. (B479.w16)
  • Oval, somewhat pointed at the small end, with the basic colour being white or pale blue, green or pinkish; usually lightly spotted with brown, yellow, dark pink or purple spots, more towards the large end. Measured at (100 eggs) 93.2 - 113.2 x 53.8- 69.8 mm (average 104.4 -64.3 mm); 51 eggs were average 101.5 - 65.0 mm. Another 73 eggs were average 101.35 - 64.27 mm. Ten fress eggs weighed 183.4 - 247.6 g, average 212.56 g. (B480.8.w8)

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  • 31-34 days. (B107.w8)
  • Incubation begins after the first egg has been laid. (B107.w8)
  • 28 days. (B477)
  • About 33 days; eggs laid three days apart. (B479.w16)
  • 31 days observed in captivity, eggs laid three days apart. (J23.10.w3)
  • 31-36 days; eggs laid 48 hours apart. (B481.II.7.w15)
  • About 32 days. (J50.64.w1)

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Asynchronous. (B107.w8)

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85-100 days. (B107.w8)

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Sexual Maturity

Males 2-3 years. (B107.w8)
Females 2-3 years. (B107.w8)

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Walk slowly with head down, searching for food, in wetlands and uplands. (B107.w8)
  • Dig, using the bill to get tubers and roots out of wetland soils. (B107.w8)
  • Uproots plants to forage on roots, digs for animal foods underground. (B477)
  • Feed in shallow water and on dry land e.g. cultivated fields. (B480.8.w8, B481.II.7.w15)
  • Initially the parents offer food; by about two days the chicks also pick up food and after a few days they mostly pick up food themselves. (B480.8.w8)
  • In captivity, parent-reared chicks were observed to wander after their parents and take food offered from their bills for the first few days. They started picking up food for themselves on the fourth day. (B479.w16)
  • Chicks were noted picking up their own food at 9-10 days of age. (J50.64.w1)
  • Start feeding themselves very quickly; mainly foraging for their own food from only a few days old. (B481.II.7.w15)
  • A parent-reared chick was fed by its parents on the prepared diet (Purina Game Bird Chow), smelt, worms and insects; by the time it was a week old it was seen feeding itself. However, when removed from its parents at two weeks old initially it needed to be force fed before it started feeding properly by itself. (J23.10.w3)

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Parental Behaviour

  • Both birds build the nest, pulling up vegetation from the water and piling it up until the nest is well above water level. (B480.8.w8)
  • Cranes general: Both male and female build the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: A secluded spot in the pair's territory is chosen, and the cranes unison-call there, then walk away from the selected place and toss nesting materials over their shoulders towards it. Returning to the nest site, they pull into the nest material which is within reach, then slowly walk away and toss more material towards the nest, repeating this sequence until sufficient nesting material has been gathered. (B107.w8)
  • Mainly by the female, with the male standing watch. (B477)
  • Both birds incubate the eggs. (B479.w16, B480.8.w8, J50.64.w1)
  • Captive data:
    • Incubation by both birds, but mainly by the female, which sat at night and during parts of the day. (J23.10.w3)
      • When the male took over, the female would leave at once to feed; on her return, the pair sometimes performed a dance. Unison-calling and turning the eggs occurred at each shift change. (J23.10.w3)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Both male and female incubate, changing over several times during the day, but with the female usually incubating during the night. (B107.w8)
    • About every 30-80 minutes, the bird which is incubating will rise and roll the eggs or adjust the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Both parents tend the chicks and offer them items of food from their bills. (B479.w16)
  • Both parents tend the chicks, guarding them, walking with them and feeding them. (B480.8.w8)
    • It was noted that in a captive pair rearing chicks, the chicks did not attack each other. (B480.8.w8)
  • If an intruder comes near, warn chicks with a "kor-r-r-r"; chicks then freeze. (B477)
  • Occasionally adults will use "broken wing" distraction displays to lure intruders away from chicks. (B477)
  • Normally, if two young are raised, one adult will look forage with each chick. (J722.22.w1)
  • Note: very rarely it appears that three chicks are raised successfully; pairs have been seen with three immature young, on their breeding territories. (J722.22.w1)
  • Captive data: For chicks hatching three days apart, the first chick was seen leaving the nest with the male by the time it was two days old, while the female continued incubating the second egg. Once the second chick hatched, it was left on the nest while the older chick followed its parents. The next day the older chick was seen pecking the second, weaker chick, which was therefore removed for hand-rearing. (J23.10.w3)
  • Cranes general: Adult cranes feed their chicks from soon after hatching. Both male and female bring small items to the chicks, presenting them by holding the food item at the tip of the bill or dropping the food in front of the chicks. (B107.w8)
  • Chicks may still be fed by the parents at as old as six months of age. (J50.64.w1)

  • Parents and juveniles stay together until the following breeding season. (B480.8.w8)

    • In captivity, if juveniles are left with their parents they will be attacked when the adults start to breed the following year. (J50.64.w1)

  • Cranes general: Adult cranes continue to care for their chicks throughout the pre-fledging period and may bring food to the chick for several months (although chicks also follow their parents to food sources from an early age). Juveniles remain with their parents through the non-breeding periods but leave at the start of the next breeding season or are driven away after the return to the breeding territory. (B107.w8)

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Social Behaviour

  • India and Nepal, breeding pairs maintain discrete territories year-round where there is an adequate year-round water supply, while non-breeding birds are found in flocks and roost in larger wetlands. (W2.Nov2013.w7)
    • In India, flock sizes vary inversely with available wetland size (large flocks when there is little wetland available in summer). (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • In Australia and south-east Asia, commonly flock during the non-breeding season, migrating to traditional roosting and feeding sites. (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • While sarus cranes may form flocks of e.g. 200 birds, they remain in family groups within the flock. When roosting, pairs and particularly those with young maintained larger distances apart than groups of non-breeding birds. (B480.8.w8)
  • Generally remain in pairs and families. (B481.II.7.w15)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Cranes are gregarious outside the breeding season, but separate for the breeding season. (B107.w8)
    • Juveniles which are not yet paired gather in non-breeding flocks and may be nomadic through the breeding period. (B107.w8)
    • By the end of their second year the young birds may have started to initiate pair bonds. (B107.w8)
    • Soon after the chicks fledge, families of migratory cranes gather in flocks at pre-migratory staging areas with dependable food and safe roosting sites. As the weather deteriorates, they move further south to join larger congregations of cranes, before setting out on the main migration. (B107.w8)
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Lifelong monogamous pairing. (B477)
    • Courtship displays involve active participation by male and female, male more active, starting by rapidly partially opening his wings, bowing to the female, giving a small leap or jump, then dipping his foreparts up and down, then trumpeting loudly with head held high; this is followed by mutual vigorous bowing, prancing, leaping etc, with both birds calling, often for 2-3 minutes. (B477)
    • A copulation was observed initiated by the female; the birds walked towards each other then "the female suddenly stopped, turned her back to the male and raised her head and neck, with her bill pointed upward and forward. The male hurried forward, and when he arrived, stepped slowly and carefully onto her lower back. Then with wings slowly beating, he copulated with her. The act required only about thirty seconds. When leaving he hopped over her head." (B480.8.w8)
    • Dance together. (B480.8.w8) This is seen in winter and in the breeding season. (B481.II.7.w15)
    • In the unison call, the male raises his secondaries above his back with the primaries held stiffly lowered, while the female has her wings tight against her sides. Both have the head, neck and bill extended upwards. (B480.8.w8)
  • Cranes general: Monogamous. Crane pairs stay together all year, and usually remain together until one partner dies. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: (B107.w8)
    • Cranes copulate repeatedly, starting several weeks before egg laying.
    • Mating usually occurs before sunrise, but can also occur at other times during daylight hours. 
    • In newly-established pairs, copulation is preceded by long bouts of dancing. Well-established pairs mate without any tension. 
    • The copulatory sequence is initiated by the male or the female. The initiating bird elevates its bill, arches slightly forwards and gives a low, purring call. The mate then shows similar behaviour. 
    • The male bird (usually) circles its mate with exaggerated steps.
    • The female spreads her wings. The male approaches, jumps onto her back with his wings flapping, and crouches.
    • The female elevates her tail, the male lowers his tail, and the cloacae of the two birds meet.
    • The male jumps forward off the female over her head and for a few seconds performs threat displays.
    • Both birds perform a long preening sequence.


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Predation in Wild

Hailiastur indus - Red-backed sea eagles reported to predate eggs, and Canis dingo - Dingoes and Vulpes vulpes - Red foxes reported to prey on young cranes. (B481.II.7.w15)

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Activity Patterns

  • Rather laborious take-off but strong flight with powerful wing strokes. Usually flies at about treetop height, on short journeys between roosting and feeding areas, but occasionally seen soaring and circling high up. (B477)
  • Roost at night in shallow water. (B480.8.w8)
  • Unison calls are loud and uttered most commonly during the morning but also at other times of day and occasionally at night. (B480.8.w8)
  • The alarm call is a single note. (B480.8.w8)
  • Outside the breeding season, may remain near the roosting ponds during the day, or fly to feed in meadows, grain fields etc. (B481.II.7.w15)

Cranes general:

  • Roosting:
    • Cranes (except the Balearica spp.) generally roost in shallow water, occasionally on mudflats, sandbars or dry ground.
    • In flocks, cranes stand about a "peck distance" apart while roosting.
    • Most of the time they stand on one leg, switching legs several times during the night.
    • The head and neck are tucked onto or under one shoulder.
    • Cranes defecate at regular intervals while roosting.
    • On the roosting site they are still and silent unless disturbed.
    • If there is an unfamiliar sound, or one member of the flock gives an alarm call, all the birds become alert and are ready to fly.


  • At dawn, they wake, stretch, preen and drink.
  • In small groups, they fly to a post-roosting staging area, and preen more; cranes may gather at such a site from several roost sites.
  • Small and then larger groups move from the staging area to a feeding area for the day.
  • Generally, cranes feed for a long time in the early morning, then move to loafing areas.
    • At loafing areas, cranes preen and drink, and also engage in social displays, establishing a pecking order for families, and facilitating pairing of unattached birds.
  • In the middle of very hot days, they may fly, spirally high up on thermals.
  • Later they return to feeding and watering areas and forage.
  • They then move to pre-roosting staging areas before flying to a roost site.
    • On the pre-roost staging areas they may engage in social displays.


  • Leave the roosting area around daybreak, to forage, returning midmorning to drink, foraging again, then return to the roosts for the night. (B480.8.w8, B481.II.7.w15)
  • Cranes general: Diurnal. Outside the breeding season, cranes roost at night and feed during the day. (B107.w8)

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Natural Diet

Adult Diet

  • Generalist: wetland plants such as sedge tubers, upland grasses, groundnuts, waste grains, snails, crustaceans, insects such as grasshoppers, small vertebrates including fish, frogs and snakes. (B107.w8)
  • Omnivorous: roots, tubers, invertebrates, amphibians. (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • Animal matter such as fish, frogs, crustaceans, lizards, large insects (e.g. locusts, grasshoppers), and plant matter such as aquatic plant tubers and corms, shoos of green grasses. (B477)
  • Omnivorous, including grains (wheat, rice, etc.), shoots, aquatic plants, bulbs, insects, snails, frogs, lizards etc., even snakes. (B480.8.w8, B481.II.7.w15)

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Newly-hatched Diet

  • Insects, spiders, worms initially. (B481.II.7.w15)
  • A two-thirds grown juvenile was given a (thoroughly killed) two-foot-long snake which it finally managed to swallow whole, gaping occasionally for about 10 minutes afterwards and then hock-sitting "dazed" for some time, but was normally active by the following day. (B480.8.w8)

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Detailed Physiology Notes

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


  • Australia, Cambodia, China, India, People's Democratic Republic of Lao, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Viet Nam. (W2.Dec06.w4)
    • Note: Recently extinct in Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, probably also in China. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)
  • Grus antigone antigone
    • Northern India, Nepal, possibly formerly also Bangladesh. (B107.w8)
    • Pakistan, northern and central India, Nepal. About 8,000-10,000 birds. (B475)
  • Grus antigone sharpii
    • Cambodia, southern Laos, wintering in Vietnam; status in eastern India and Myanmar is uncertain. (B107.w8)
    • South-east Asia - now in Cambodia, extreme southern Laos, south Vietnam and Myanmar; previously a larger range. About 500-1,000 birds remaining. (B475)
  • Grus antigone gilliae
    • Northern Australia, mainly Queensland with scattered populations elsewhere. (B107.w8)
    • Australia, less than 5,000 individuals. (B475)
  • Note: regionally extinct in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. (W2.Nov2013.w7)


  • Indian and Australian populations non-migratory but make some seasonal movements, particularly during drought. (B107.w8)

  • Indian populations make seasonal movements in response to droughts and monsoons. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)

  • Cambodian populations migrate to the Mekong delta region in Vietnam for the non-breeding season. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)

  • South-east Asian populations migrate from the upper basin of the Mekong (isolated breeding areas) to the Mekong delta in Vietnam. (B107.w8)

  • Cranes general: 
    • Migratory cranes spend days to weeks at pre-migratory staging areas, integrating into the flock as well as building up fat reserves. (B107.w8)
    • To migrate, they feed for several hours early in the morning, then on a clear day with breezes, fly up, climbing in large circles by flap-flying and lifting on thermals, to as high as 2,00m, then assume a V-formation, wings extended, and glide south; after a certain amount of altitude has been lost, they spiral again to regain height, before gliding. Over water, without thermals, they flap-fly in V-formation. (B107.w8)
    • Young cranes stay close to their parents during migration and learn the route. (B107.w8)
    • Cranes call constantly during migration. (B107.w8)
Occasional and Accidental

Vagrants of Grus antigone antigone to Bangladesh. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w6)



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  • Breeding: river beds, marshes, swamps, well-irrigated plains. (B477)
  • Winter: often near cultivated areas. (B477)
  • Lowland and foothills. Wet and dry grasslands, agricultural fields, marshes, pools, either open or enclosed by forest. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)
    • A mixture of flooded, partly flooded and dry ground is preferred for foraging, roosting and nesting. (B475, W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • In India, adapted to human presence and uses canals, irrigation ditches, village ponds, shallow marshes, jheels and fields (fallow and cultivated). (B107.w8)
    • Rice paddies are suboptimal haitat but cranes are being forced to breed in these sites due to loss of natural wetlands. (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • In south-east Asia, interior wetlands (details unknown) in breeding season. In the dry season, found in shallow wetlands, dry sedge meadows, rice fields and wet grasslands of the Mekong Delta. (B107.w8)
  • In Australia, coastal freshwater sedge marshs, and ephemeral inland marshes, but also upland grasslands and agricultural fields in the dry season. (B107.w8)

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Intraspecific variation

  • Grus antigone antigone: northern India, Nepal, possibly formerly also Bangladesh. (B107.w8)
  • Grus antigone sharpii: Cambodia, southern Laos, wintering in Vietnam; status in eastern India and Myanmar is uncertain. (B107.w8)
  • Grus antigone gilliae: northern Australia, mainly Queensland with scattered populations elsewhere. (B107.w8)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Total population estimated at 13,500-15,500 individuals, with Grus antigone antigone about 10,000 but declining, Grus antigone sharpii estimated 500-1,500, having devastated throughout south-east Asia; Grus antigone gilliae perhaps 5,000 and considered secure. (B107.w8)

  • Total population estimated at 13,500-16,500 and declining. [2000] (B475) Three disjunct populations; total world population estimated 15,000 - 20,000 birds in 2003; presently perhaps 19,000 - 21,800 with 13,000 - 15,000 mature birds, and declining. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • 2012: there are three populations, found in the Indian Subcontinent, South-East Asia and northern Australia. (W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

    • Grus antigone antigone includes about 8,000-10,000 birds in northern and central India, Nepal, Pakistan; thought to no longer breed in Pakistan, with occasional vagrants in Bangladesh. (W2.Nov2013.w6)

    • Grus antigone sharpii , in South-East Asia, has declined dramatically; there are now only about 800-1,000 birds, in Cambodia, extreme southern Laos and south Vietnam and about 500-800 birds in Myanmar. (W2.Dec06.w4)

      • There have been some recent increases in population, but current rates of habitat degradation could lead to extinction. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

      • Counts at six sites in 2009 totalled 455 birds, which was about 30% lower than 2008, but early dry season counts of 562 were higher than in 2008. (W2.Nov2013.w6)

    • Grus antigone gilliae is found in Australia, where there were estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals in 2000; a 2003 study suggested the population could be only 5,000. (W2.Nov2013.w6)


  • Loss and degradation of wetlands due to agricultural expansion, drainage, pesticides, pollution, industrial development and war. (B107.w8)W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • India and Vietnam, also increasing human population pressure and disturbance; eggs and chicks sometimes taken (chicks raised for food). (B107.w8)

  • India, Cambodia and Thailand, some trading. (B107.w8)

  • The main threats are wetland loss and degradation due to drainage, conversion to agriculture, shrimp farming, pollution of wetlands with pesticides, fertilisers and industrial effluent, siltation (due to deforestation of catchments and alterations of river basins). (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Pesticides may be an important cause of mortality: in one accidental organophosphate poisoning incident near Keoladeo National Park, India, 15 sarus cranes (15.5% of the population of the park), were killed. (J425.326.w1)

  • Additional threats are hunting of adults and collection of eggs and chicks. This occurs mainly in Indo-China but also, increasingly, in India and Pakistan, for trade, food and medicinal purposes, and in some areas due to the cranes being considered a crop pest. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Human disturbance of wetlands also is a widespread threat. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)

  • In some areas, collisions with power lines is a minor threat. (W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • In Australia, where most cranes both breed and winter in non-protected areas, cessation of grazing by cattle near Lake Tinaroo, for purposes of water quality, has led to overgrowth of dense vegetation, making habitat unsuitable, while in the Gulf of Carpentaria, there is a proposal to change land from cattle grazing to cropping (grazing lands are presently used by the cranes for breeding) and water would be impounded which is presently available for wetland habitats. Additionally at Lake Tinarro there is icreased disturbance from e.g. speedboats,a and conversion of shoreland grazing to housing. (W2.Nov2013.w7)


  • In many areas, particularly northern India, the western terai of Nepal, and Vietnam, protected by local traditions and religion.

  • Intensive conservation efforts in southeast Asia, with expanding international agreements and collaborative conservation projects since the 1980s. (B107.w8)

  • Key protected areas include Ang Trapeang Thmor in Cambodia and Tram Chim National Park in Vietnam; these sites seasonally support most of the Indo-Chinese population of sarus cranes. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)

  • Conservation awareness campaigns are underway in India, Nepal, Laos and Cambodia. (B475, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • National census conducted in India. (B475)

  • In Cambodia, a national wetlands management plan is being developed, partly to protect breeding habitat for sarus cranes. (B107.w8)

  • In India, a national census was carried out recently. (W2.Dec06.w4)

  • Education programmes in Vietnam, Nepal and India. (B107.w8)

  • Possible reintroduction plans in Thailand and other areas of the historic range. (B107.w8)

    • Ongoing captive breeding programme at Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo, Thailand, aiming to establish a wild population in Thailand. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Proposed 238,374 hectare conservation reserve in the Kampong Trash IBA, China, was demarcated in 2006 and awaited ministerial decree. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • A 9,275 hectare protected area was approved in Takeo province, where a major non-breeding population was found.

  • National surveys in India and Cambodia; detailed studies of the requirements of sarus cranes in India and Nepal. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Nest protection schemes in India. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • In Myanmar, increased local respect due to Buddhist monks, with many nests being protected rather than destroyed to prevent rice paddy damage. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • In Australia, implementation of the Wild Rivers Act 2005 in Queensland, ongoing: this will halt/limit major development affecting wetland habitats as well as ensuring that the breeding habitats will be observed. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

Further conservation targets:

  • Further surveys in northern Cambodia, southern Laos and southern Vietnam to identify key sites for sarus cranes. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Regulate access to both important nesting grounds during the breeding season and important permanent wetlands in the dry season. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4)

  • Control the use of pesticides and the discharge of industrial effluents around feeding areas. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Upgrade this species to CITES I and strictly control international trade in sarus cranes. (B475, W2.Dec06.w4, W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Further conservation awareness campaigns targeted at communities in and around important sites for sarus cranes. (B475)

  • Encourage a mosaic of small natural wetlands in areas which are heavily farmed, providing breeding sites (pairs will nest in habitats as small as 1 hectare). (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Improve protection for key wetland and other habitats. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Encourage farmers and amateur ornithologists to protect nests. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

  • Improve the estimates of the population and trend of the species in Australia. (W2.Nov2013.w7)

General Legislation Protected throughout its range. (B477)
CITES listing
Red-data book listing
  • Vulnerable A2cde+3cde+4cde ver 3.1 (2012). (W2.Nov2013.w7)
  • Previous assessments:
    • Not globally threatened; near threatened. [1996](B107.w8)
    • Vulnerable. [2000] (B475)
    • Vulnerable (VU A2cde+3cde ver 3.1 (2001); assessed 2006). "This crane is listed as Vulnerable because it has suffered a rapid population decline, which is projected to continue, as a result of widespread reductions in the extent and quality of its wetland habitats, exploitation and the effects of pollutants." (W2.Dec06.w4)

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Captive Populations


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