The Faithful Sarus Crane
Let me introduce you to the tallest flying bird in the world.
These graceful, grey giants stand almost six feet tall. The boy is slightly taller than the girl. From a distance, one can see the red head against the contrasting green of the fields it inhabits and its own pale grey body. They both are seen wearing a smallish grey cap.
According to the folklore in India, the Sarus crane is believed to be a symbol of faithfulness. This is represented in our ancient art and brass figurines. It is also said that killing one bird would cause its partner to die of grief. I think this holds true because I have always seen them in pairs. And they remain aware of each other’s whereabouts even while feeding. In case they sense any danger, one of them gives a warning call to alert the other and they fly away together.
Their annual dance:
I got an opportunity to witness their dance in Basai wetland. Unlike the Indian Peafowl, where only the male dances, both our boy and girl danced, jumping around in shallow water. With wings outstretched, trying to impress each other like excited kids who have just found a puddle of water to splash around in, sometimes mimicking each other’s moves and at others, just doing their own thing.
The large nest is made mainly with wheat straw on the ground itself (Featured image at the top). The lady very patiently incubates while our man keeps a watch for danger while tending to her and bringing food. At times getting nesting material to reinforce the nest. Once in a while, she gets up to turn the egg, which she does gently with utmost precision and care despite her large size.
The chick is really tiny compared to his parents. Did you notice the little one in the nest picture (featured image)?
And they delicately feed the chick with their long beaks – bigger than the chick himself. Imagine how tough that would be! Still they manage to do it quite well.
The Sarus crane has been classified as vulnerable to extinction.
Rampant urbanization is destroying their habitat. The nesting area (featured image) has already been destroyed and we now have tall buildings and a road there.
In the past, hunting reduced their population considerably.
Also, these birds are severely affected by climate change because unseasonal and heavy rains in the nesting time can cause flooding of its ”ground” nest and in case the rains fail, drought affects availability of food.
As they are rarely in large flocks, there is no safety in numbers.
Sad isn’t it?