Grus grus



A big, regal bird with long legs and neck. The sexes are similar with a characteristic shaggy, 'bustle' of drooping feathers on the rear, and a pointed bill. The plumage is mostly blue-grey with a black and white pattern on the head and neck, and a distinctive smudge of red on the hindcrown. When in the air, wings are large and lengthy with fingered ends, and the neck and legs are extended. Juveniles are paler and buffish-brown around the head and neck and they don't have the markings of the adult.


Favours forest clearings, wetland or fends for breeding, though some have adapted to inhabit farmland. Prefers expansive country in the winter, often with a smattering of trees.


The neck is somewhat curved when it walks, but is straight in flight. Migration groups form 'V' formations in flight and during winter, but otherwise the bird usually socialises in pairs or in small flocks. This is a reticent bird, but it has surprisingly extravagant displays of dance.


Varied diet of shoots of grass, seeds such as acorns, and berries, the leaves of crops such as potatoes, wheat, oats and barley. Also eats some animals including flies, beetles, caterpillars, snails, and worms; occasionally will eat small mammals and birds.


Nesting starts in April, with nests formed on the ground or on mounds and ridges in wetlands. Female usually lays 2 eggs and the male helps her to incubate them for 30 days. Both parents feed the young, who can fly after approximately 65-70 days.


A very small number of these birds live in Norfolk, but they are predominately a scant passage migrant, and infrequent winter visitors. Some migrants are spotted each year, usually around eastern Britain, and between 9 and 14 pairs have nested in the last few years. Less than 60 birds remain in the region for winter.

Observation Tips

Autumn and winter offer optimal times to view this bird, especially following southeasterly winds. The east of England and Scotland, especially expansive fields and marshes are the ideal habitat. Eastern England and Scotland offer the best chances of discovering this species. Check the bird's silhouette to distinguish from the Grey Heron, which it is commonly mistaken as, and watch for the outstretched neck in flight.


Has a blaring, reverberating 'krrruu' call.
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