Grus grus (Linnaeus, 1758) AN CRANE 4330
Family: Gruiformes > Gruidae

Crane, John Harding

An unmistakable species, recorded as extinct in UK in the 18th century but returned to the UK in the 1980s.

In the modern era Cranes were first recorded breeding in Norfolk in 1981 and their population has increased fast with at least 30 pairs now breeding regularly, and an increasing group in Somerset following a reintroduction scheme.

In winter the species has started to form large flocks, particularly in the Nene and Ouse Washes in the Fens, and in the Broads of north-west Norfolk. Sightings of 50 birds together are now possible and the sound of loud bugling calls, echoing across the flatlands, will not be forgotten.


Crane identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Crane, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Cranes formerly bred in the UK but became extinct in the sixteenth century (Stanbury et al. 2011). A small Crane population has persisted in Norfolk since the 1980s (Stanbury et al 2011) with both numbers and the UK breeding range increasing more strongly in the 21st century to a five-year mean of 40 breeding pairs over the period 2015–2019 (Eaton et al. 2021). Cranes now breed widely across the UK including, from 2012, in Scotland (Biggins & Maggs 2021) and numbers have also been boosted by releases between 2010 and 2014 (Eaton et al. 2021).


Cranes have increased significantly over the last few decades. During Bird Atlas 2007–11 breeding evidence was received for 21 10-km squares, most falling in four extensive areas of relatively undisturbed wetlands in Britain. In 2011 the winteirng population was estimated at c.50 birds with the majority in southern England, particularly the Broads and Fens. By the 2020s that number may be 2–3 times higher.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Cranes are localised but can be encountered throughout the year.

Weekly occurence of Crane from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Crane ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Crane, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Corra-mhonaidh
Welsh: Garan
Catalan: grua europea
Czech: jeráb popelavý
Danish: Trane
Dutch: Kraanvogel
Estonian: sookurg
Finnish: kurki
French: Grue cendrée
German: Kranich
Hungarian: daru
Icelandic: Grátrana
Irish: Grús
Italian: Gru
Latvian: (peleka) dzerve
Lithuanian: pilkoji gerve
Norwegian: Trane
Polish: zuraw (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: grou
Slovak: žeriav popolavý
Slovenian: žerjav
Spanish: Grulla común
Swedish: trana


Interpretation and scientific publications about Crane from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The growth of the Crane population since recolonisation has been slow, with low productivity in the initial population in the Broads. It is not clear whether the recent range expansion has originated from the Broads or from new immigrants from Europe, though it has also been assisted by reintroductions (Stanbury et al. 2011). Cranes require large areas of undisturbed wetland to breed and further expansion may be limited by habitat availability (Stanbury et al. 2011).

Links to more information from

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