Demoiselle Crane

Grus virgo

Species Information

Despite being the smallest crane species, the tall and conspicuous pair can be seen hopping and jumping around from across the park! If you can’t see them, just wait to hear one of their loud and travelling ‘honks’!

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Demoiselle cranes are found across Central Eurasia, their range stretching from Ukraine to China. They also overwinter in North East Africa and India. These cranes generally frequent open grasslands, savannahs, and even deserts, as long as they are near wetlands or open water.

The demoiselle crane is the smallest crane species. Despite this, they still have the characteristic long necks, legs, and bill. The long white feathers stretching from around the eyes to beyond the head is characteristic of this species, amongst their grey-blue plumage.

The omnivorous birds mainly eat grass seeds and grains, but also prey upon small vertebrates and reptiles, insects, and worms.

25-65 years.

These migratory birds can fly as high as 8000m in flocks often made up of thousands of cranes. This is necessary, as they must fly through and over mountains, including the Himalayas! In order to take off, the cranes need a run up to reach up to a speed which allows their powerful wing beats to lift their large frames and dangling legs.

Demoiselle cranes are monogamous breeders who court their mate-for-life with elaborate dancing displays. This dance consists of running, jumping, and bowing, as well as tossing plant material around in the air. The birds nest on dry ground in open grasslands or cultivated areas. The two laid eggs are sometimes hidden by the parents, as they gather stones and vegetation to camouflage and protect the eggs from potential predators. Both parents incubate the eggs, for 27-29 days.

Least Concern

Demoiselle cranes will sometimes fake a wing injury to distract and lure predators away from their nests!