Common crane

Common crane

Stefan Johansson

Common crane, The Wildlife Trusts

© Neil Aldridge

Common crane

Scientific name: Grus Grus
As the UK’s tallest bird the common crane is instantly recognisable with the ruffle of tail feathers and very long legs. Their bugling call is also very distinctive.

Species information


Length: 110-120cm
Wingspan: 220-245cm

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The common crane has significantly declined across Europe over the last 300 years as vast areas of wetland habitat have been drained for agriculture. A recent breeding programme in Somerset has led to the establishment of a wild population once again. There are also low levels of migration from Europe which may also account for breeding pairs in East Anglia.


Hunting along with the draining of marshlands led to their disappearance as a breeding bird about 400 years ago, until a trio of migrating birds were blown off course in 1979, ending up in Norfolk. Careful protection, reintroduction projects, and some landscape-scale habitat restoration projects mean that there are now around 160 cranes in Britain.

Did you know?

The dance of the cranes is famous worldwide. Heads thrown back, wings flapping, tail feathers fluffed, and feet stamping; this is how they reinforce their pair bonds. Cranes were once so common in Britain that 204 were served roasted at a banquet for the Archbishop of York in 1465.