Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds in the group Gruiformes. The Gruiformes are an order containing a considerable number of living and extinct bird families, with a widespread geographical diversity. Even the word Gruiform means “crane-like”. It is believed that the plight of the whooping cranes of North America inspired some of the first US legislation to protect endangered species.
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.
Demoiselle Cranes are the smallest and second most abundant crane species. They stand approximately three feet tall and weigh about 4-7 pounds. Their population ranges from ~200,000-240,000.
Overall they are pale bluish gray in colour. A light gray-feathered area extends from the base of the bill to the nape. A long, pure white feather plume stretches from behind the eye to well beyond the head.
What’s different about them?
Demoiselle Cranes are one of two species of cranes that do not have patches of bare, red skin on their heads. The head and neck are black while the feathers of the lower neck are long and pointed and hang below the chest. Eyes are reddish-orange, bill is short, and legs and toes are black. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable although the males tend to be slightly larger. According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list these cranes are stable overall, with some populations increasing and decreasing in almost equilibrium.
They breed in steppic latitudes in Central Russia and are winter visitors in Pakistan. They occur in grassland habitats close to streams, shallow lakesand other wetlands. Each winter they can be found in plains of Punjab around river Indus, some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhua and regions of Gilgit-Baltistan.