Sarus crane

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The sarus crane (Antigone antigone) is the tallest flying bird belonging to the crane family, Gruidae. The sarus crane is non-migratory and is adapted to human presence, especially in India. It is distributed in Indian subcontinent, Mainland Southeast Asia and Australia. There four recognized subspecies of sarus crane of which one is extinct.

Taxonomy of Sarus crane

  • Scientific Name: Antigone antigone
  • Common Name: Sarus crane
  • French: Grue antigone; German: Saruskranich; Spanish: Grulla sarus;
  • Other names: Ardea Antigone Linnaeus, 1758; Grus antigone (Linnaeus, 1758);
  • Family: Rallidae › Gruiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
The four recognized subspecies of Antigone antigone are: A. a. antigone (Linnaeus, 1758), A. a. sharpii (Blanford, 1895), A. a. gillae (Schodde et al., 1989) and G. a. luzonica Hachisuka, 1941. The subspecies A. a. luzonica (Luzon sarus crane) is now extinct.


The sarus crane is a tall bird, measuring 180 cm in height and weighing 6,000 to 12,000 grams. The wingspan is 220 to 280 cm. The male bird is slightly larger. The overall plumage is gray, the primaries being blackish and secondaries being mostly gray.

The mid-neck and tertials are whiter. The head and upper neck have bare reddish skin. The crown region is grayish. The bill is long, pointed and greenish gray. The long legs of the crane are pinkish red.

The red skin on the head and upper neck and the reddish legs turn very bright red during the breeding season. The tips of the wings are dark gray. In flight the neck is held straight and the long legs trail behind. Their call is a high-pitched trumpeting sound.
Birds of India - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Indian birds - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone


Indian birds - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Birds of India - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Birds of India - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Indian birds - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Indian birds - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone
Birds of India - Sarus crane - Antigone antigone


These Sarus crane species inhabit marshes, wetlands, agricultural fields, open grass lands, flooded plains and eutrophic lakes. In India there is increased association with flooded paddy fields.

Diet and feeding habits

The primary diet of these crane species is plant matter like roots, rhizomes, submerged leaves, cereal crops, groundnuts, seeds, bulbs, tubers, aquatic plants and sprouts. They also eat insects, fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs and grasshoppers.


These crane species usually breed during July to October, the monsoon period. They form long-lasting pair-bonds and are highly territorial during the breeding season. The pair build a large nest, sometimes nearly two meters in diameter.

Grass and reeds are used for nest building. It is constructed high enough to keep out the surrounding water. Normally two eggs are laid in the nest. Both the parents take turns to incubate the eggs.

The chicks hatch out in 30 days. The chicks are fed by the parents for a few days and then the chicks start following the parent and become independent in feeding.


The crane subspecies A. a. antigone is distributed in Pakistan, North India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The subspecies A. a. sharpii is distributed in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The subspecies A. a. gillae is distributed in Australia. The crane subspecies A. a. luzonica was once present in Luzon in the Philippines. The last reports of this species were from the 1970's.

Movement and migration Patterns

The sarus crane is resident species. They may make short distance movements during floods and drought. They may make local movements for foraging and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

The sarus crane global population is estimated to be around 19,000 to 21,800 individual birds. The overall population trend is considered to be alarming as there is steady and fast decline. They are considered vulnerable species. The degradation and loss of wetlands and marshes due to human activities, hunting, collection of eggs and chicks and environmental pollution are the threats to the survival of these crane species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these sarus crane species and has listed them as "Vulnerable".

Biological classification of Antigone antigone
Species:A. antigone
Binomial name:Antigone antigone
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia;
Diet and feeding habits:omnivorous diet; primarily plant matter like rhizomes, seeds, sprouts, agricultural crops like groundnuts; also fish, insects, frogs, shrimp and crabs;
IUCN status listing:

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