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

Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle cranes. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle cranes with chicks. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption.










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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Anthropoides virgo
  • Grus balarica sive Vipio (B474)
  • La Demoiselle de Numidie (B474)
  • The Numidian crane (B474)
  • The Demoiselle of Numidia (B474)
  • La Grue de Numidie (B474)
  • Ardea virgo (B474)
  • Demoiselle heron (B474)
  • Grus virgo (B474)
  • Scops virgo (B474)
  • Philorchemon virgo (B474)
  • Grus ornata (B474)
  • Grus (Anthropodes) virgo (B474)
  • de Jufferkraan (Dutch)
  • la Demoiselle de Numidie (French)
  • der Jungfernkranich (German) (B474)
  • Karchira-Togorü (= the screaming crane of the Burjates on the Upper Irkut) (B474)
  • Anehazuzu (Japanese)
  • Raho-Karkarra (of the Arabs)
  • Karronch (in India)
  • Karkarra (in India, by the Shikarees)
  • Damigella (Maltese)
  • "Wrongly called Coolen by some Indian writers, as this name applies to Grus cinerea" (B474)
  • Grue demoiselle (French)
  • Jungfernkranich (German)
  • Gruella damisela (Spanish)
  • Jufferkraan (Dutch) (B104)
  • Jungfrutrana (Swedish) (B104)

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

B31, B97, B104, B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c, B479.w16, B480.12.w12, B481.II.3.w11, W2.Nov2013.w4

Aviculture references:
B31, B97, B115.2.w7, B479.w16,  D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1, P108.9.w4, W820.Nov2013.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:

  • Can be kept in relatively small landscaped gardens; they do not dig as much as most other cranes. (B31)
  • Mainly found on dry ground; even if water is accessible, does not enter deep water. (B479.w16)
    • A pool preferably should be available for bathing. (B31)
  • Can be kept in large gardens and in aviaries. (B97)
  • Can be maintained on a grain mixture with added protein. Will catch and eat insects, mice and small birds. (B31)
  • Cope well with the northern European climate but in winter need a good shelter with a thick straw bed to protect their feet from frost; they should be shut into this at night in winter. (B97)
    • Provide a dry, draught-free shelter so the birds can use this if they wish to avoid cold, wet weather. (B31)
    • Generally need protection from severe winter weather. (B479.w16)
  • Have been kept in aviaries: note; one individual "became very adept at leaping up and capturing canaries in mid-flight!" (P108.9.w3)
  • A pair in the UK bred in an aviary about 85' x 20', in an undisturbed location, with a dense growth of nettles, docks, teasel and other weeds allowed to flourish and provide cover. The birds nested, incubated and tried to rear chicks. However, although the natural vegetation provided plentiful natural live food, in most years the chicks would get wet and tired clambering through the vegetation, and wet then chilled at least once during the first week, leading to early death of chicks . One was reared in 1978; additional crickets, mealworms and "pinkie" mice and rats were provided and further natural invertebrate live food was caught by caretakers. Repeated treatment was needed for gapeworm. The same pair also repeatedly produced fertile eggs in an aviary 120' x 20' with a sand and shingle substrate, with suckers of nearby poplars growing up. Another pair bred in an 84' x 48' aviary in a less secluded area. (P108.9.w4)
    • Both broodies and artificial incubators have been used for incubating the eggs. (P108.9.w4)
    • Chicks were hand-reared using fine-chopped lettuce, hard boiled egg yolk and raw minced beef, supplemented with minerals and vitamins (bonemeal and SA37) all offered from the tip of a pointed wooden stick, with food offered four times a day 8am to 9 pm; it was noted that chicks would start self-feeding by a day old, but would be hand fed for several days. One the chicks started eating more ("clearing their dishes between feeds", poultry starter crumbs were also provided. Each chick was kept in a 5' x 3' pen, the concrete floor being covered by hessian sheeting providing a non-slip surface and easily replaced and washed. Initially the brooders were partitioned to ensure the chicks could not go too far from the heat lamps. By one month of age each chick had a 10' x 3' area, and by seven weeks they were mixed in an outdoor paddock during the day and shut into a shed at night. (P108.9.w4)
    • It was noted that if two chicks from the same clutch were reared with a clear partition between them from the first days, the smaller, later-hatched chick showed poor initial growth. This was prevented by using an opaque divider initially, and using a clear divider only once they were several days old. However, later they were reared in pairs with no aggression, and appeared to learn to feed themselves faster. (P108.9.w4)
  • Prefers to nest in a secluded location. (B479.w16)
  • Double-clutching has been used with the first eggs taken as soon as both eggs have been laid, artificially incubated, and the chicks hand-reared initially, then reintroduced to the parents once the second brood chicks are hatched and active. (W820.Nov2013.w1)
    • The parents and chicks (young and old) were housed in a rearing facility incorporating a heat source for the older chicks to brood under until they learned to brood under the adults; all the cranes were locked in a shed at night for several weeks to ensure the chicks could not get chilled. (W820.Nov2013.w1)
    • The hand-reared chicks would follow the adults (or "almost anything that cares to wait for them", while the adults responded well to calls of chicks and would feed live food to the older as well as the younger chicks. (W820.Nov2013.w1)
Management Techniques


Bird Husbandry and Management

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Size About 90 cm. (B107.w8); 90-100 cm; body 50-55 cm. (B104)

Wingspan 165-185 cm. (B104)

Adult weight General 2,000-3,000 g. (B107.w8)
Male The male is slightly larger than the female. (B107.w8)
Female --
Newly-hatched weight Four chicks weighed 75-85 g at hatching. (B31)
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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Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Bill Male Short. (B107.w8) Short, rather fine, olive-grey with redder tip. (B104) Olive at the base, lightening towards the tip; tip orange. (B97)
Variations (If present) Female: --
Eyes (Iris) Male
  • Reddish-orange. (B107.w8)
  • Red (bright crimson to red-brown). (B104)
  • Red. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bill "Dark sea-green at base, olive-grey on middle portion, tip tinged orange-red or pink." (B104)
Eyes (Iris)
  • Brown. (B104)
  • Yellow-olive to red-brown. (B104)

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Adult Male
  • Grey. (B107.w8)
  • Toes are short. (B107.w8)
  • Dark horn-grey or olive-grey to dull black. (B104)
  • Black. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
  • Chicks: dark blue. (B480.12.w12)
  • Grey-brown. (B104)

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Adult Male
  • Overall grey, uniform in colour. (B107.w8)
  • Crown centre of hind neck, upperparts, most of underparts  blue-grey. Face, throat, most of neck, breast glossy black; breast feathers are elongated, forming a "beard". Eye tufts: from just behind the eye, long white feathers, falling down the back of the head. Flight feathers black, tertials black-tipped. (B104)
  • Head black with a grey crown and white ear tufts from just behind the eye to the upper nape. (B107.w8)
  • Neck black, elongated plumage from the chin down the foreneck and hanging down below the breast. (B107.w8)
  • Flight feathers: Secondaries black-tipped, visible as a black end to the "tail" (formed from the elongated secondaries) when the wings are folded . (B107.w8)
Variations (If present)
  • Grey by the time of fledging. (B107.w8)
  • Duller than in the adult. (B107.w8)
  • The head and neck are paler and the ear tufts are less distinct than in adults. (B107.w8)
  • Duller, with little development of head plumage, eye tufts grey, short; neck feathers short, not glossy. (B104)

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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)


  • This is the smallest crane. (B107.w8)
  • Of all the cranes, the head is completely feathered, and lacking red skin, in the adults of only the Demoiselle and Grus paradisea - Blue crane. (B107.w8)
  • The inner secondaries are elongated and form a prominent "tail" when the wings are folded. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to Grus grus - Common crane, distinctly smaller, build more delicately, and with a short, rather fine bill. Grey, but with the foreneck silky-black and a spray of white feathers behind the eye. (B104)
  • Distinguished from Grus paradisea - Blue crane by smaller size and by colouration, the blue crane having a red bill, a pale, domed head and a long black "cloak". (B104)


  • Low-pitched, raspy calls. (B107.w8)
  • Higher-pitched than Grus grus - Common crane, "recalling cornet, not bugle" , "more grating and coarse" with fewer, shorter syllables. Calls of male are louder than those of the female. Unison call of about 3-4 seconds. (B104)
  • Young have been heard giving a high-pitched squeaking. (B104)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Dorsally pale brown, ventrally greyish white. (B107.w8)
  • Precocial, soon very active. (B107.w8)
  • Precocial, nidifugous. (B104)
  • Chicks leave the nest with their parents as soon as they are dry. (B480.12.w12, B481.II.3.w11)
  • Crown, nape buff-brown; sides of head, chin, throat light buff; upperparts, sides of body grey brown or buff-brown, with mantle and each wing bearing darker stripes. Underparts pale grey/off-white, sometimes slightly ochre particularly on the chest. (B104)
  • Iris dark brown, bill grey-tinged pink, foot initially pink but within a few days shading to blue-grey. (B104)
  • "Smoky, fawn-coloured down, paler beneath and more yellowish on the crown." (B479.w16)
  • Crane 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 makes only a slight indentation on 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)
  • The moult is gradual, so these cranes do not have a prolonged flightless period. (B107.w8)

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Reproductive Season

Time of year
  • Spring, generally April to May but in the far north as late as June. (B107.w8)
  • In Siberia, end May to end June. (B104)
  • Hatching mid-May to mid June; to end June in northern Mongolia. (B480.12.w12)

In captivity

  • East Yorks, UK: late April. (B479.w16)
No. of Clutches Single. (B104)

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Nest placement and structure

  • Found on dry land, in open patches of grass, on gravel or in cultivated area, with minimal nest preparation: sometimes some plant material and pebbles may be gathered but more often eggs are laid on the ground without any obvious nest. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Usually in short vegetation. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Nests are solitary, usually 3-4 km apart, with each pair holding a territory of about 10 km²; in favourable habitat they may be as close together as 200-300 m. Usually the nest, in short vegetation or in the open, and normally near water, is a shallow scrape lined with grass, but eggs may be laid on bare earth. (B104)
  • Usually in short vegetation - grass, fallow land, growing grain, rarely stubble. The nest is minimal, a bare scrape sometimes with a few stones or bits of vegetation. (B480.12.w12)

In captivity:

  • Eggs laid "upon the bare turf, or, to be more exact, amidst a few fragments of bare sticks which are slightly added to as incubation commences." Some sticks are gathered several days before the first egg is laid, but may be noted only when a nest site previously used is chosen. (B479.w16)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average Usually two. (B107.w8, B480.12.w12, B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Two; exceptionally one or three. Laid 24-48 hours apart. (B104)
  • Usually two, rarely one or three. (B480.12.w12)
  • Early egg loss can be followed by laying of replacements. (B104)
    • In captivity, if the clutch is removed as soon as it is complete, the cranes may re-lay after 10-18 days; one pair laid up to eight eggs in a season.  (P108.9.w4)
Egg Description
  • "Oval, sometimes long oval, smooth not glossy; buff to olive-grey, variably spotted and streaked dark brown or red-brown." (B104)
  • Average size 83 x 53 mm (range 74-91 by 48-57 mm) and calculated weight 128 g. (B104)
  • Grey with separate spots, 87 x 53 mm, 125 g. (P91.1.w6)
  • For 120 eggs, average 83.3 x 53.1 mm; for 53 eggs, average 83.56 x 53.81 (range 72.0 - 91.5 x 49.9 - 56.65 mm). (B480.12.w12)
  • Long and narrow compared to eggs of Grus grus - Common crane. Ground colour pale olive yellow to warm olive brown or even olive-green, with large purplish blotches, sometimes over the whole surface, otherwise mainly or only at the large end. (B480.12.w12)

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  • 27-29 days. (B104, B107.w8, B481.II.3.w11, B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Incubation begins after the first egg has been laid. (B107.w8)
  • 27-28 days. (B479.w16)

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  • Incubation starts after first egg is laid. (B104)
  • Asynchronous hatching (B104, B107.w8, B481.II.3.w11), but sometimes very close together. (B481.II.3.w11)

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  • 55-65 days - shorter than any other crane. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)
  • 55-65 days. (B104)

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Sexual Maturity

  • Sometimes in the second year. (B107.w8)
  • Two years. (B104)
  • Sometimes in the second year. (B107.w8)
  • Two years. (B104)

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Generally walks slowly while foraging, (B107.w8, B481.II.3.w11) but sometimes makes quick movements (e.g. to catch insects) or runs. (B481.II.3.w11)
  • Large flocks forage in cultivated fields and sometimes damage cereal and legume crops. (B107.w8)
  • They use their short bills to graze in a manner similar to geese. (B107.w8)
  • In India in winter, browse and glean in crop fields. (B104)
  • Initially parents feed the chicks passing food bill-to-bill; after 3-4 days the chicks start self-feeding. Fed by both parents. (B104)

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Parental Behaviour

  • Both male and female build the nest - if any is built. (B107.w8)
  • Probably by both male and female. (B104)
  • Incubation by both birds, but mainly by the female. (B480.12.w12)
  • Mainly by the female while the male stands as a sentinel at up to 1.5 km distance, keeping visual or vocal contact and taking over incubation for a time in the morning and afternoon. (B104)
  • If danger approaches, the female leaves the nest in a crouch, only standing when some distance away, then feeds or mock-feeds "with deliberate lack of concern." Early in incubation, the female leaves the nest quite readily at a sign of danger, but later tends to sit more tightly. Sometimes the male calls and dances as distraction. (B104)
  • If danger is detected from a distance, the incubating bird will "stealthily rise, crouch low and travel some distance before standing upright. Should this deception not be practicable it appears to rise immediately and, in a most unconcerned manner, go slowly and carelessly away from the nest." (B479.w16) 
  • 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)

Demoiselle cranes with chicks. Click here for full-page view with caption. Demoiselle crane - Grus (Anthropoides) virgo. Click here for full-page view with caption.

  • Chicks leave the nest once dry. (B104)
  • Initially parents feed the chicks passing food bill-to-bill; after 3-4 days the chicks start self-feeding. Fed by both parents. (B104)
  • Small chicks are brooded by parents. (B104)
  • Chicks can be very aggressive to one another initially, fighting while propped on their tarsi. (B104)
  • One chick taken and cared for by each parent, offering food (insects) from the bill. (B479.w16)
  • If threatened, both parents may distract the predator, with the head and body low, one or both wings trailing, pretending to be disabled. (B104)
  • One or both parents may feign disablement, "flutter along for some yards, apparently in gret distress, until the young have had time to separate and conceal themselves." (B479.w16)
  • Parents may lead chicks across water away from danger (chicks swimming). (B104)
  • To avoid predators, chicks squat motionless, often under shelter of grass. (B104)
  • 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)
  • Juveniles remain with their parents. (B480.12.w12)

  • In captivity, parents feed insects to their young. (B104)

  • Parents tend their chicks for at least seven to eight weeks; the family remains together at least until flocks form in autumn, and may leave on migration together with their parents. (B104)

  • In captivity, parents often tend on chick each. (B104)

  • 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

  • Territorial, although nests may be no more than a few hundred metres apart in some areas. (B480.12.w12)
  • Pairs, particularly males, are territorial from arrival at the breeding grounds in spring until after fledging of the chicks. (B104)
  • Flock together in late July/early August and leave the breeding areas mainly in August and early September. (B104)
  • Form flocks once the chicks have fledged. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Migrate in flocks as large as 500 and 770. (B104)
  • On wintering grounds may form large flocks (B104, B481.II.3.w11), e.g. 3,000 in Sudan. (B104)
  • After arriving on the breeding grounds, flocks may remain together initially, and may reassemble evening and morning even if pairs are otherwise separate. (B104)
  • In these large groups, they may dance, particularly in spring, also in autumn and summer. (B480.12.w12)
  • Groups of birds can be seen during summer. (B480.12.w12)
  • Intraspecific aggression appears to be slight. (B104)
  • Note: Up to six cranes may act together to drive away predators. (B104, B481.II.3.w11)
  • 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)


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Sexual Behaviour

  • Monogamous. (B480.12.w12, B481.II.3.w11)
  • Monogamous; pairs are said to remain life-long. (B104), B481.II.3.w11
    • Pairs may be already formed when the birds arrive on the breeding grounds, or may become evident after arrival. (B104)
  • Copulation: male dances in a semicircle around the female, she invites copulation by squating on her metatarsal joint, he dances a few more seconds then mounts. (B104)
  • 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

Otis tarda - Great bustard, Circus spp. harriers, Falco peregrinus - Peregrine falcon, herons (Ardeidae - Heron, Bitterns, Egrets (Family)), Larus spp. (gulls), Aquila spp. (eagles), also foxes Vulpes spp. and dogs (Canis familiaris - Domestic dog). (B104)

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Activity Patterns

  • Undertakes high soaring flights using thermals. (B104)
  • Migrate in large V-formations, flying very high - may be audible but not visible, at 330-1,330 m and 60-65 km/hr; often fly at night. (B104)
  • Roost at night e.g. in marshes, along shorelines, on sandbanks of rivers. (B104)
  • Dancing displays are particularly seen at dawn and dusk in flocks. Dancing displays are very common during spring migration and have increased frequency in the breeding season. (B104)
  • Chicks are good swimmers. (B104)
  • When showing aggression, they erect the elongated breast feathers. (B104)
  • In India roost either in shallow water or on sandbars/mudflats surrounded by water. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • On the wintering grounds in India, during the night and parts of the day when not feeding, on large sandbars of rivers, or open jheels; feed in the morning and early afternoon on stubble fields, newly sown fields and fields of ripening crops. (B481.II.3.w11)

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.


  • Usually roost at night, but have been observed feeding in cornfields at night. (B104)
  • 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

  • Mainly plants, also some insects. (B480.12.w12)
  • Seeds, particularly those of grasses, also other plant material, insects (particularly Coleoptera, beetles, in summer), worms, and small vertebrates such as lizards. (B107.w8, B481.II.3.w11)
    • On wintering grounds in India, amounts of cultivated crops such as wheat, alfalfa and chickpeas; in Russia also, ripening cereal crops. (B481.II.3.w11)
  • Mainly plants but in summer also invertebrates, especially Coleoptera (beetles). Eat ripening cereals in late summer and autumn, and in India during the winter use cereals, chick-peas and lucern. (B104)
  • Plants, insects, small animal foods. Crops such as cereal grains, peanuts and beans are eaten while these are growing and along the migratory routes. (W2.Nov2013.w4)

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Newly-hatched Diet

Probably mainly insects; in captivity, chicks ate beetles, butterflies, ants and orthopterans. (B481.II.3.w11)

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Detailed Physiology Notes

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Demoiselle crane distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption.

  • Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Chad, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen. (W2.Nov2013.w4)

  • Central Eurasia from the Black Sea eastwards to Mongolia and south-east China. (B107.w8)

  • There are small, disjunct breeding populations in Turkey and in northwest Africa, in the Atlas Mountains. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Breeding mainly in central Eurasia. (B104)

  • These cranes may move over large areas while searching for food and may be nomadic in dry years. (B559.2.3.w2c)


  • Migrate starting in late summer. Depending on the area, migration may take them through mountain passes in the Himalayas, or over large bodies of water such as the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Arrive at wintering grounds in early autumn. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Winters in the Indian Subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa (Lake Chad to Ethiopia). (B107.w8)

    • Western Eurasian individuals winter in eastern sub-Saharan Africa. (B107.w8)

    • Birds breeding in Central Asia, Mongolia and China winter in the Indian Subcontinent.

    • The Atlas Mountains population may winter to Lake Chad. (B107.w8)

    • To reach the wintering areas, they migrate through the passes of the Himalayas, or across the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (to the Nile Basin). (B107.w8)

  • The small population in Turkey may be non-migratory. (B107.w8)

  • Winters mainly in India and Pakistan; birds breeding west of tje River Volga and the Caspian winter in north-eastern and north-central Africa. Sudan is a major wintering site, particularly on the Blue Nile and White Nile at about 9-15 degrees south, also much further west in Chad, around Lake Fitri and Lake Iro, and around Lake Chad (including on the Nigerian side of the lake). Main autumn passage over Cyprus in August and early September, arriving in Africa from early September, and found there mainly October to February; main passage northwards over Jiddah in the second half of March and over Cyprus late March to mid-April. Arriving Russia end March to April and on breeding grounds during April. (B104)

  • 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
  • Vagrant to Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates. (W2.Nov2013.w4)

  • Accidental to Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Israel, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia. (B104)



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  • Grasslands such as savannah and steppe, often near to streams, shallow lakes or other wetlands. (B107.w8)
  • Also semi-desert and desert areas if water is available. (B107.w8)
  • Steppes and semi-desert, wastelands, grassy and stony ground, river valley steppes. (B480.12.w12)
  • In Kazakhstan and Ukraine, this crane is adapting to use agricultural fields. (B107.w8)
  • Found at altitudes up to 3,000 m in Central Asia. (B107.w8)
  • In the African wintering grounds, found in Acacia savanna, grasslands and riparian wetlands. (B107.w8)
  • In India, uses agricultural fields in its wintering areas, roosting in shallow waters and wetlands nearby. (B107.w8)
  • Middle latitudes between the boreal and arid zones, mainly steppes; in the central Asian mountains, up to 3,000m in the high valleys. Needs ready access to drinking water, but found in a wide range of habitats - shrubby steppe, coarse grasslands, Artemisia brush interspersed with bare salt-flats, rock and gravel areas, unvegetated alkali flats. Also in cultivated areas particularly for feeding. Nests usually in undisturbed areas. (B104)
  • Mainly dry grasslands including savannah, steppe and semi-desert. Also use agricultural fields and wetter steppes. They are usually within a few hundred metres of waters such as streams, rivers, shallow lakes etc. If there is water available they will use semi-deserts, true-deserts, alkali flats etc.(B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Precipitation affects the year-to-year size of breeding territories and breeding density. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • May be found breeding at altitudes up to 3,000 m in Kirghizia. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • For nesting, patchy vegetation such as Stipa spp., Festuca spp. and Artemesia spp. are preferred - high enough to conceal the nests and cranes but low enough that they can look out while they incubate. Sites at the tops of slopes are valued for nesting. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • More recently, as large areas of steppe have been converted to agricultural use, they have begun to nest in agricultural fields. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • Winter bare sandbanks in lakes, floating islands, and bare margins of jheels for roosting; fields of winter cereals and rice stubble for feeding. (B104)
  • Kalmykia and Black Sea Dmoiselle cranes winter on cultivated fields, acacia savannahs, grasslands, riparian areas. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • In India, found on agricultural and stubble fields as well as riverbeds. (B559.2.3.w2c)

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Intraspecific variation

None known. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Not globally threatened. (B107.w8)

  • Currently about 200,000-240,000 birds (estimated). (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Estimated about 230,000 - 280,000 individuals globally in a 2006 report. (W2.Nov2013.w4)

  • This is the second most abundant crane species (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Historical records show a contraction from the previous breeding range in western Eurasia and some parts of central and eastern Asia. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Still abundant in most of its historical range, but during the last 100 years it has been eliminated from the Iberian Peninsula, Balkan Peninsula, parts of North Africa and parts of western Eurasia. The stronghold for this crane is the eastern Eurasian steppes. (B107.w8)

  • The eastern populations, based in Eastern Asia, Kazakhstan/Central Asia and Kalmykia, contain tens of thousands of birds each (Eastern Asia 70,000 - 100,000; Kazakhstan/Central Asia about 100,000; Kalmykia about 30,000 - 35,000. However there are only about 500 in the Black Sea population, less than 50 on the Atlas Plateau in northern Africa and there is only a remnant breeding population in Turkey (estimated less than 100, 1988). (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • In the Atlas Mountains the remaining population is small, perhaps only 10-12 birds. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)


  • Crane general: Cranes are vulnerable to changes in habitat not only at their breeidng and wintering areas but also, for migratory species, at their traditional staging and resting areas. They are susceptible to human-associated mortality factors such as collisions with utility lines. (B107.w8)

  • Demoiselle crane: 

    • Habitat loss and degradation, even on the eastern Eurasian steppes, due to agricultural development.

    • Human disturbance, particularly in India and Sudan.

    • Intensive pesticide use, particularly in India, Sudan and Morocco.

    • Hunting: about 5,000 individuals shot annually along the Afghanistan and Pakistan migration route. (B107.w8)

    • In some areas where these birds damage crops, shooting and deliberate poisoning. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c, W2.Nov2013.w4)

    • Habitat loss and degradation. (B559.2.3.w2c)

      • Loss of breeding habitat due to conversion of steppes to agricultural use, intensification of agriculture, changes in agricultural practices and use of pesticides. (B559.2.3.w2c, W2.Nov2013.w4)

      • Loss of migratory habitats due to dam construction and loss of wetlands. (B559.2.3.w2c)

      • Increased disturbance of wintering grounds due to human population pressure. (B559.2.3.w2c)

    • Hunting, mainly for sport and occasionally for food, in Pakistan and Afghanistan

    • Over grazing and mining threaten the Moroccan breeding population. (W2.Nov2013.w4)


  • In Pakistan, education and hunting regulation efforts began in the mid 1980s. (B107.w8)

  • Information exchange has taken place at several conferences, including on specifically for demoiselle cranes. (B107.w8)

  • Consideration of releases in areas where numbers are critically low or it has become extinct. (B107.w8)

  • In many areas, cultural tradition protects the cranes. B559.2.3.w2c

  • Legally protected in most counties in their range including China, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Benefit from some international conservation measures carried out for the benefit of other cranes, such as the protected area around the China-Mongolia-Russia border (aimed primarily at Grus vipio - White-naped crane conservation) and international measures to protect the Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane Central population and its migratory route. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Most Demoiselles are outside protected areas, although protected areas are used by these birds. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Habitat management and development programs to coordinate agricultural practices with crane conservation is important. (B559.2.3.w2c)

  • Priority conservation needs are the development of conservation programmes for the Atlas , Black Sea and Turkey populations as well as international cooperation and agreements and establishment and expansion of of protected areas. (B559.2.3.w2c)

General Legislation --
CITES listing CITES II. (B107.w8, B559.2.3.w2c)
Red-data book listing Least Concern, 2012: previously assessed as Last Concern in 2009, 2008 and 2004 and as Near Threatened in 1988. (W2.Nov2013.w4)

Least Concern "This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 1,000,000–10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 200,000–240,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern." (W2.Dec06.w1)

  • The Atlas and Turkey populations are Critically Endangered. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • The Black Sea population is Endangered. (B559.2.3.w2c)
  • The East Asia population is Vulnerable. (B559.2.3.w2c)

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Captive Populations

Breeds well in captivity. (B107.w8)

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