Britain’s cranes have most successful year since 1600s

Cranes had their most successful year in the UK since the 17th Century with a record-breaking 72 pairs, conservationists said.

The common crane was absent as a breeding bird for 400 years due to wetland drainage and hunting.

But now the UK’s tallest bird has made a strong comeback since a small number returned to Norfolk’s Broads in 1979.

Damon Bridge, chairman of the UK Crane Working Group, said: “The population is rapidly expanding.”

Adult cranes stand at around 1.2m (4ft) tall and are known for their complex “display” behaviour, where they perform bows, pirouettes and bobs.

The crane is thought to have been a common breeding bird in Britain during the Middle Ages. English place names with the prefix “cran”, such as Cranfield in Bedfordshire, refer to areas frequented by the birds.

Image caption,

Between 2010 and 2014 Eurasian crane chicks from Germany at wear hand-reared in Gloucestershire before their release in Somerset

Their initial spread after their reintroduction was aided by the creation and improvement of their favoured habitat at the RSPB’s Lakenheath Fen in Suffolk and Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire.

Since 2010, a project has also been hand-rearing and releasing young birds on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

The latest breeding survey showed that of the 72 pairs, up to 65 had bred and these fledged 40 chicks, the RSPB said.

The highest number of young fledged previously was 26 in 2019.

A new population estimate now stands at more than 200 birds.

Image caption,

In 2010, the Great Crane Project aimed to boost crane numbers in the UK

Mr Bridge said: “Although climate change poses a huge challenge for many species, opportunities to restore peatlands and floodplains to reduce carbon emissions and better manage increased flood risk can go hand in hand with the delivery of habitats perfect for cranes and other wetlands species.”

Andrew Stanbury, RSPB conservation scientist, said: “The recovery of the UK crane population, now at its highest level since the 17th Century, showcases that conservation action can make a real difference.”

The RSPB said as well as in eastern England and Somerset, cranes could be spotted at its reserve at the Loch of Strathbeg in Aberdeenshire.

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