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Common Crane Grus grus
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.360,000-370,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in China; < c.50 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Korea and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing, stable or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is fully migratory, although isolated breeding populations east and south of the Black Sea may be resident or only undertake local movements (Snow and Perrins 1998). It usually migrates on a narrow front, utilising two major migration routes (south-west, and south to south-east passages across Europe) and uses regular staging areas (Snow and Perrins 1998). Family groups and non-breeding birds begin to migrate in July, but the majority of the species migrate in early September, arriving in African wintering grounds during October. The species returns to its breeding areas in March (Vegvari 2002), where breeding begins in late April or early May, occasionally up to three weeks earlier in southern areas (Snow and Perrins 1998). It is gregarious for much of the year, migrating in flocks of between 10-50 to 400 birds (Africa) and congregating in groups of few to 1,000 birds in the non-breeding season (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Urban et al. 1986), exceptionally it gathers in flocks of up to 4,000 during the moulting period (Cramp and Simmons 1980). Whilst breeding, pairs are solitary with large nesting territories, although immature and unmated birds may remain in groups of 6-10 individuals (Cramp and Simmons 1980). Every two years adults undergo a complete moulting period, after breeding but before leaving for wintering grounds, throughout which they are flightless for around six weeks (Urban et al. 1986). This species is diurnal, feeding during the day and roosting during the night on the ground or in water in large numbers (the same roost is often used every night, and sometimes every year) (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Urban et al. 1986). Habitat Breeding During the breeding season this species utilises a wide variety of shallow wetlands, including high altitude, treeless moors or bogs (where the main vegetation is Sphagnum moss or Ericaceae) usually with some standing water, and swampy forest clearings, reedy marshes and rice paddies (Cramp and Simmons 1980). The species requires inaccessible ground nesting-sites, so is commonly associated with quaking bogs and other impassible mires, especially in the vicinity of Alnus carr woodland or seasonally flooded riverine forest (Cramp and Simmons 1980). In Central Asia the species may use drier forested areas (such as pine or mixed birch/pine woodland) if water is readily available (Cramp and Simmons 1980), but it generally avoids heavily wooded areas (Urban et al. 1986). The species moults in its breeding habitat after breeding, specifically requiring shallow waters or high reed cover for concealment during this vulnerable flightless period (Cramp and Simmons 1980). Non-breeding The non-breeding wintering and migration habitats of the species include floodland, swampy meadows, shallow sheltered bays, rice paddies (Cramp and Simmons 1980), pastures and savannah-like areas (such as open holm oak woodlands in the Iberian Peninsula) (Meine and Archibald 1996). The species may also be found roosting on mudflats or sandbanks along rivers, lakes and reservoirs during this season (Urban et al. 1986, Meine and Archibald 1996) and undertake flights of up to 20 km (Cramp and Simmons 1980) to forage in agricultural fields (Meine and Archibald 1996, Vegvari 2002) (due to human encroachment and destruction of its preferred habitats) (Cramp and Simmons 1980). Diet The species is omnivorous in both breeding and non-breeding seasons, the plant component of its diet consisting of grass roots and shoots, rhizomes, tubers (e.g. potatoes), the leaves of crops and wild herbs (e.g. brassicas, clover, nettle, chickweed), pondweed, the berries of Empetrum and Vaccinium, cereal grain (e.g. wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, rice), peas, olives, acorns, cedarnuts, groundnuts Arachis, and the pods of Cajanus (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Urban et al. 1986). Animal matter in this species' diet includes adult (beetles, flies) and larval (Lepidoptera) insects, snails, earthworms, millipedes, spiders, woodlice, frogs, slow-worms, lizards, snakes, small mammals (rodents and shrews), fish and occasionally the eggs and young of small birds (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Urban et al. 1986). Breeding site The nest is a mound of wetland vegetation (which may be re-used from year to year), generally placed in or near water in inaccessible undisturbed bog, heath, marsh, mire (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Urban et al. 1986), or sedge meadow (Malik and Prange 1995). Management information The removal of willow bushes, reeds and bog grass from areas in the Kremmener Luch nature reserve, central Germany, has been successful in providing suitable roosting sites with wide panoramic views which have attracted the species to the area (Malik and Prange 1995). The vegetation was removed during the winter months: willow bushes being cut off and poisoned with arboricid, bog grass being burnt down and reeds being mechanically cut (Malik and Prange 1995). Other management efforts in western Europe include the burial or relocation of utility lines, and programs to encourage the planting of lure crops and the use of waste grain for diversionary feeding (away from agricultural crops) (Meine and Archibald 1996).

In both its breeding and non-breeding ranges this species is principally threatened by habitat loss and degradation through dam construction, urbanisation and agricultural expansion (including changes in land-use, intensification, expanded irrigation systems and conversion of traditional holm oak pastures) (Meine and Archibald 1996). Breeding In parts of its breeding range that are heavily developed the species is threatened by nest disturbance from tourism and recreation which reduces its breeding success by increasing the incidence of successful nest predation by corvids, wild boar and foxes (Meine and Archibald 1996). Egg collecting is also a threat to the breeding population in Turkey (Meine and Archibald 1996). Non-breeding Along its migrational routes and in its wintering grounds the Common Crane is particularly threatened by habitat fragmentation and the loss of many smaller traditional feeding and roosting sites, leading to increasing concentrations of large flocks in smaller areas, and therefore increased competition (Cramp and Simmons 1980, Alonso et al. 1994, Meine and Archibald 1996). Pesticide poisoning may also be affecting cranes along migration routes and in some wintering areas, especially where they depend primarily on grain from agricultural fields (Meine and Archibald 1996). Collisions with utility lines are frequent in highly developed areas along migration routes and in winter ranges (collisions being the leading cause of adult mortality at wintering areas in Spain) (Meine and Archibald 1996). Hunting is a significant threat to this species on migration (e.g. through Afghanistan and Pakistan) (Meine and Archibald 1996, Nawaz et al. 2006) and illegal shooting has been identified as a problem in other areas (including Portugal, southeast Europe, Egypt and Sudan) (Meine and Archibald 1996).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Alonso, J. C.; Alonso, J. A.; Bautista, L. M. 1994. Carrying Capacity of Staging Areas and Facultative Migration Extension in Common Cranes. Journal of Applied Ecology 31: 212-222.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. 1980. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic, Volume II: Hawks to Bustards. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Malik, J.; Prange, H. 1995. Management of the nature reserve "Kremmener Luch" and its effects on crane resting. In: Prange, H. (ed.), Crane research and protection in Europe, pp. 24-35. Naturschutzbund Deutschland and Umweltstiftung WWF Deutschland, Frankfurt.

Meine, C. D. and Archibald, G. W. 1996. The cranes - status survey and conservation action plan. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K.

Nawaz, M.; Nawaz, Y.; Malik, M. F.; Shahabuddin. 2006. Hunting pressure and impact of Afghan refugees on migratory cranes in Pakistan. Zoos' Print Journal 21(7): 2333-2334.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sokolov, L. V.; Gordienko, N. S. 2008. Has recent climate warming affected the dates of bird arrival to the Il'men Reserve in the Southern Urals? Russian Journal of Ecology 39: 56-62.

Urban, E.K., Fry, C.H. and Keith, S. 1986. The Birds of Africa, Volume II. Academic Press, London.

Végvári, Zs. 2002. Autumn staging and habitat selection by common cranes Grus grus in the Hortobágy National Park, Hungary. Folia Zoologica 51(3): 221-225.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

International Crane Foundation Species Field Guide

Jump to the case study for this species in Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species (Deniet et al. 2003)

Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Status, Survey and Conservation Action Plan

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L., Jones, V. & Symes, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Grus grus. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Common crane (Grus grus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Gruidae (Cranes)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,420,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment