Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sarus Crane

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sarus Crane ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9/19/13

I went up to the Atherton Tableland at the weekend to photograph Freckled Ducks at Hasties Swamp where these rare birds had recently been reported. The ducks were still there perching on a log at an inconvenient distance from the hide and, although I spent several hours on three occasions in the hide, they never came any closer and I gave them a wooden spoon award for being undynamic and uncooperative. However, Sarus Cranes, which winter in fields on the Tableland were more cooperative.

Before I tell you the odd story of their history in Australia, here is a spot-the-difference exercise comparing the Sarus Crane, first photo, with the much commoner and more widespread Brolga, second photo.

Brolga Crane (Grus rubicunda) by Ian Montgomery

Brolga Crane (Grus rubicunda) by Ian Montgomery

You have to spot only two differences: the red on the neck of the Sarus Crane extends much farther down than on the Brolga, and the Brolga has a dewlap, the flap of tissue hanging down from the chin. There is another difference: Sarus Cranes have pink legs, and Brolgas have grey ones, though this is often difficult to spot as the legs can be pinkish-grey in the Sarus Crane. Anyway, more about distinguish them later.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

We first discovered a small party of Sarus Cranes feeding near the Malanda-Atherton Highway (opposite the upmarket Gallo chocolate and cheese place). While I was taking photos of them, a flock of about 60 joined them in the field except for 5 which obligingly flew over us, photos 3 and 4. In flight they look positively Jurassic Park-ish and make wonderful, insistent, gurgling, trumpeting noises.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

The next day, when I got bored waiting for the ducks to do something I went to Gallo for cheese and lunch and found a family, I presume, of Sarus Cranes – 2 adults and a juvenile – close to the road that goes from the Malanda-Atherton road to Yungaburra via the Curtain Fig National Park, photos 5 and 6 (the other adult is in the first photo).

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

In juvenile Sarus Cranes the red colour is replaced by buffish-cinnamon, usually darker than the one these photos.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) Juvenile by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) Juvenile by Ian Montgomery

The reason for the spot-the-difference exercise was to show that the two species are not hard to separate in the field. So, why were Sarus Cranes not positively identified in Australia until 1966 (in Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria)? The fashionable explanation at the time – which got unobservant birders off the hook – was they had recently colonised Australia from, presumably, Indochina, the nearest other place that they occur naturally. The Australian birds were conveniently similar to the Eastern Sarus Crane (race sharpii) that occurs there, even though it doesn’t migrate. Maybe they couldn’t cope with the sounds of war in Vietnam. It is now though that the Australian Sarus Cranes form another smaller race, gilliae, and have been here all along nesting in remote swamps on the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula with at least some moving to the Atherton Tableland in winter.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Ian Montgomery

The last photo shows the nominate race, antigone, in India. It has white tertiary feathers (the bustle) and with a length of 176cm/70in (weight to 12kg/26lbs) is the world’s tallest flying bird. The population in India is perhaps 10,000, Indochina 1,000 and Australia 5,000. It is extinct in various countries including the Philippines (probably yet another race) and Pakistan and is under threat in Indochina. The Australia population is thought to be stable and may have benefitted from clearing of land for agriculture on the Atherton Tableland.

Best wishes
Ian

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Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks again, Ian, for sharing another great bird. I encountered my first Sarus Cranes at the Zoo Miami’s Wings of Asia Aviary. They were walking along the sidewalk, and like Ian said, they are tall. I am only 4’10” and they are over 5 feet. Needless to say, I gave them room when they walked by and also had to look up to them.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Lee at Wings of Asia

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Lee at Wings of Asia

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me. (Isaiah 38:14 KJV)

Sarus and Brolga Cranes belong to the in the Gruidae – Crane Family and are also Birds of the Bible.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Lee at Wings of Asia

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Lee at Wings of Asia

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Crane Photos

Sarus Crane – Wikipedia

Gruidae – Crane Family

Birds of the Bible – Cranes

Birds of the Bible

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Sandhill Crane Juveniles in Backyard

Sandhill Crane "colts"

Sandhill Crane "colts"

Do you remember the blog about the Sandhill Crane “Colt” Birdwatching? The little baby Sandhills were just a day old then on March 14th of this year. Today is August 27th of 2010 and they were visiting in my backyard with their parents. As you can see, they are growing up quite well. We have been watching them over the last five months. Couldn’t resist getting the camera out and updating their progress.

Sandhill Juvenile - 5 months old

Sandhill Juvenile - 5 months old in backyard

They still don’t have all their color yet, but they are just about as tall as the parents. It is neat to be able to watch them grow. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) are in the Gruidae Family of the Gruiformes Order.

Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV)

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Birds of the Bible – Cranes II

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) with 2 juveniles by Lee

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) at Lake Ashton by Lee

Last evening we were with our friends at Lake Ashton in Winter Haven, FL and they gave us a tour of the wildlife there. This time of the year there are numerous Sandhill Crane families around. We saw several young Sandhills as we were being shown around. We took some photos and also got video of two adult Sandhill Cranes giving a duet. Thought that sounded like a good topic for this weeks Birds of the Bible.

The crane is mentioned twice in the Bible and one has to do its migration.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)

The second mention of the Crane has to do with its voice.

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me. (Isaiah 38:14 KJV)

As you will see and hear by the video I took of the two cranes doing their duet, you can hear a bit of “chatter.”

We are lucky here in Central Florida to see the Sandhill Cranes quite frequently and occasionally a Whooping Crane.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Nikhil Devasar

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) by Nikhil Devasar

Around the world there are 15 crane species in the Gruidae Family of the order Gruiformes. The cranes are the Grey Crowned, Black Crowned, Demoiselle, Blue, Wattled, Siberian, Sandhill, Sarus, Brolga, White-naped, Common, Hooded, Whooping, Black-necked, and Red-crowned.

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds  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.

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.

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) by Nikhil Devasar

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) by Nikhil Devasar

Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or “dances”. While folklore often states that cranes mate for life, recent scientific research indicates that these birds do change mates over the course of their lifetimes (Hayes 2005), which may last several decades. 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 gregarious, forming large flocks where their numbers are sufficient.

See:

Birds of the Bible – Cranes
Birds of the Bible – Cranes I
Birds of the Bible – Demoiselle Crane
Wordless Birds

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