The Common Crane is the only species of cranes in Estonia. The name crane is one of the oldest Estonian bird names. It is a big grey bird with some black patches of skin without feathers and some red patches on the back of the head) There is a white band on both sides of the head and neck. Both pinions and legs are black, the bill is greenish-brown. Tail feathers form a characteristic big quill.
The Common Crane stretches its neck forward while flying unlike the Herons that are grey as well. The Common Crane never lands in trees. It breeds in bogs and mires whereas its popular names refer to fields: field crane, meadow crane, rye crane, fallow crane and sowing crane. The latter helps us to understand the origin of these popular names - the cranes come to fields only during the period of sowing in spring. The cranes appear in flocks at the beginning of April and until the pairs are formed one can see them here and there.
After the male bird has chosen a female bird, they leave the flock and fly to remote bogs to nest. Usually a juvenile flies together with the pair. Before nesting the cranes perform interesting wedding dances.
Their nest is usually situated in a bit drier open land probably for two reasons: it is warmer for the young and it is easier for the parents to notice any danger. The Common Crane is not much of a builder, it only lines a small cavity in land with straws. After laying the eggs mainly the female bird hatches them for about a month. There are two eggs in the nest. The young are precocial, covered with brownish downy feathers. It takes 40 days for having the full plumage but half a year for getting as big as the adult bird. When the young begin to fly they look for food together with their parents but still spend nights in the nest.
The Common crane mainly feeds on plants: all kinds of berries, stalks, but also on small animals: frogs, snakes, insects, etc. It migrates to North Africa to winter and so we can hear and see them flying in triangles. The length of their wings is up to two and a half metres. It is said: the cranes are leaving, the weather is getting bad. This is true since they leave in September or October in order to return to familiar nesting places in spring. All the flocks of cranes are not breeding here. About 600 - 700 pairs of cranes breed in Estonia whereas 30,000 are transit migrants.
The Common Crane is under protection since it is not numerous but in
danger of being a game for its meat.