Demoiselle Crane

The Smallest of all Cranes

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Information about the Crane and its Habitat, Courtship plus More Facts

The Whooping Crane - A Rare and Endangered Bird

Demoiselle Crane - The Smallest of all Cranes

Crane History and Legend

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Continued from The Whooping Crane - A Rare and Endangered Bird.

The Demoiselle is a name fancifully given by French speakers to several kinds of birds (Buffon, Hist. Nat. Oiseaux, iii page 247; v page 437, note, and vii pages 313-316).  But the only sense in which it has been used, and that being for nearly 200 years by English writers is as applied to one particular species of the Gruidae (crane) family, this being Anthropoides Virgo, the Demoiselle Crane.  This bird is also known as the Numidian Crane though it is only a winter visitant to any part of Africa, and this name appears to be rarely used in modern times.

The range of its breeding-haunts extends from the valley of the Lower Danube eastward through Southern Russia, Turkestan and Siberia to China.  Examples occasionally stray from its proper home and have occurred in Germany, Heligoland, and Sweden; while two were seen, and one of them shot in Orkney in May 1863 (Zoologist, p. 8692).  The preferred habitat it grassy steppes with adjacent marshes and swampy areas.  It easily takes to the waters where it can happily clean and bathe itself .

At a length of 85 to 100 centimetres and with a wingspan of 165 to 185 centimetres, the Demoiselle Crane is considerably smaller than the Common Crane, and is in fact the smallest of all Cranes.  Its weight varies between 2 to 3 kilograms and has a long tuft of white feathers reaching backward behind each eye, while the black plumes of its breast and, in particular the grey inner secondaries, are greatly elongated.

The Demoiselle Crane feeds on plants and small animals such as worms,  snails and insects.  The diet can also include mice, lizards or frogs and even small chicks of other birds.

In flight and during breeding times this bird produces high-pitched grating sounds. Its display is very elegant.  Two eggs are generally laid, which hatch in around 27 to 29 days.  The young chicks can fly 55 to 56 days after hatching.

From the end of august and September, after the breeding season, the Demoiselle Cranes collect themselves  in groups of up to 400 to migrate together to their wintering grounds, where they add himself to other groups to create enormous colonies. In March and April they return to their more northern habitats.

The name Anthropoides was given by Viellot, following a misapprehension of the French Academicians, Du Vernay and Perrault, whose observations were translated in The Natural History of Animals...dissected by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris (London: 1702).
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