The Common Crane (Grus grus) is a large bird breeding in northern Europe and Asia, while migrating south towards northern Africa, Arabia, India, and China for the winter months. The birds breed mostly in boreal or taiga forests, mixed forests, moors, or swamps. Their diet is very diverse and includes plant matter (for example roots, seeds, fruits, and leaves) as well as other animals (e.g., insects, snails, spiders, crabs, amphibians, small rodents, and even young birds). The cranes live in monogamous pairs, but still a courtship ritual is started anew with each breeding season. This dancing of the cranes is fascinating humans since many centuries and gained them an important place in the mythology of many cultures. Among other things, they are considered to be a symbol of luck, long life, vigilance, and wisdom.This fame led to a common depiction of cranes in fables, fairy tales, paintings, and other forms of art.
During the migration, the birds are very social and often occur in large groups of several hundred individuals. After their arrival in the breeding area, however, they disperse and the pairs become rather secretive. During this time, they are also quite sensitive to disturbances by humans. The most important threat to cranes in Europe was a loss of suitable habitats, but strong protection measures led to a steady increase in the populations and overall the species is not threatened. I have photographed these majestic birds in northern Germany (April 2015), where they traditionally take a break from their migration in spring and autumn. Only the last photograph in this post is from western India in January 2014.