Lee Richardson Zoo

Indian Sarus Crane

Order:  Gruiformes - cranes, limpkins, rails, gallinules, coots
Family: Gruidae - cranes

Scientific Name:  Grus antigone antigone


Description:  This 5 foot tall bird is the largest of the world’s 14 species of cranes.  Plumage is entirely blue-gray except for a band of white around the lower neck and whitish wing tips.  The pointed greenish gray bill is shorter than most cranes.  The head and upper neck are bare with red skin.  Black feathers cover the nape and sides of the neck.  The legs and feet are pinkish-red.  The iris is orange.  Sexes appear very similar although the hen may be slightly smaller.


Life Span:  All crane species can live to an old age
but no direct observations have been made in the
wild.  A crane living in a zoo in Washington lived to be 55 years of age.


Range:  Southern Asia and India


Habitat Type:  They can be found in well watered plains, marshes, swamps and riverbanks.


Reproduction Habits:  Indian sarus cranes do not attain sexual maturity for several years.  They will mate for life and return to the same breeding ground year after year.  Nests are made of marsh vegetation and built on the ground, often in flooded paddy fields or marshes.  A clutch consists of two eggs that are greenish or pinkish – white.  The eggs are also spotted and blotched with brown and underlying purple.  The female incubates the eggs but the cock will take short turns sitting while the hen feeds.  Male Indian sarus cranes are inclined to become very aggressive when breeding.


Diet in Wild:  Vegetation of any kind, worms, snails, and insects.   Occasionally they will eat frogs, lizard, mice, and young birds.


Diet in Zoo:  Bird of prey diet and grain


General info:  To the natives of India, the Sarus crane is a symbol of a happy marriage.  Elaborate dances performed by the cranes were once thought to be just a mating ritual.  They have since been seen performing dances in all seasons.  The dance combines leaping, bowing, prancing, and calling in duet.   Very powerful in flight, they most often are seen flying in a line or V-formation.  They are quite hardy birds and can withstand severe winters.


Conservation Status:  Listed by IUCN Red List as  Vulnerable; CITES, appendix l.



Grzimek’s Animal Bird Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. Birds II.  1975.  Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernhard Grzimek.  Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.  New York.  122-123 pp.

Encyclopedia of Aviculture.  Vol I.  1979.  A. Rutgers and K. A. Norris.  Blandford Press Limited.  253 pp.

The Birds of China.  1984.  Rodolphe Meyer De Schauensee.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  Washington D. C. 202 pp.