Continuing our selection of crane resources from many available worldwide. Here in Part 2, we include cranes on farms, wetlands and conservation.
Cranes and farms
Cranes occupy a wide range of agricultural lands in five continents, and many species have adapted well to new shallow ‘wetlands’ like rice paddies and irrigation overflows. The Threatened Species and Farming project in Victoria, SE Australia is working with small farmers and major irrigators to perfect a suite of minor adjustments to storage design, that will improve Brolga habitat without reducing farm efficiency, download final report (pdf 941KB)¥. The story of one Western District (Vic) grazing property that restored wetlands and brought Brolgas back after 40 years is told in ‘Renaissance on Lanark’, free pdf from Birds Australia (982kb).
¥ We are grateful to the Victorian Dept of Sustainability & Environment for allowing us to post the Brolgas on Farms report.
Fire is often an essential management tool for farmers or graziers, and crane habitats: Birds Australia offers ‘Fire and Birds: Fire management for biodiversity’ by Penny Olsen and Mike Weston (Sept 2005, 1.75mb free pdf) – also check out Burning for Brolgas in Ozcranes Conservation.
Some crane species have changed wintering areas or migration times to exploit planted seeds and post-harvest crop waste. To read about landowner liaison projects aimed at resolving farmer-crane conflicts, check the multi-purpose sites in Resources 1. Research is continuing on repelling or deflecting cranes from crops –
- Full pdf (1.628 Mb) of B Blackwell, D Helon & R Dolbeer article on crop repellents for pest cranes (pen trials only, field trials in progress)
- Search Google Scholar (Advanced), type in sarus crane paddy crop agroecosystem
- Successful research on feeding stations to deflect cranes from crops, after spectacular buildup in wintering numbers in Israel.
Quotations on cranes, wetlands and people
From J Harris, Cranes, people and nature: preserving the balance, in H Higuchi & J Minton, The Future of Cranes and Wetlands (Wildbird Society of Japan Research Center)
‘Wetlands, with very high biological productivity, have long attracted human settlements, and one cannot remove people from the wetlands. Instead, conservation practices must focus on integrating conservation with wise use of wetland ecosystems.’
From D & C Frith, Cape York Peninsula: A natural history¥
‘Of all the waterbirds that live on the Peninsula it is the Magpie Geese and the cranes that seem to be most finely attuned to life in the Wet-Dry Tropics.’
¥ Reprinted 2007, enquiries C & D Frith, PO Box 581, Malanda, QLD, Australia 4885.
Special Wetland issue Wingspan, award-winning membership magazine of Birds Australia, special Wetland issue December 2004. Read the articles on Brolgas (Matthew Herring) and Sarus Cranes (John Grant) here on Ozcranes, courtesy of Birds Australia.
SOAB 2004 The 2004 State of Australia's Birds Report (SOAB 2004) is sub-titled ‘Water, Wetlands and Birds’. Compiled for Birds Australia by Penny Olsen and Michael Weston, it's available to read from the Australian Environment Department as a series of html chapters or as pdf downloads (two files, 2.64Mb and 3.071Mb).
The Australia federal Environment Department has released a Threat Abatement Plan for feral pigs, read or download (pdf 1.08 Mb) here»
Of the world's fifteen (15) crane species, eleven (11) are threatened in at least part of their range. They're found on all continents except South America (unless you include the Cuban subspecies of Sandhill Crane, in Central America) and Antarctica. The most common, and the rarest, are both found in North America. The Sandhill (Grus canadensis), population over 600,000; and the Whooping (Grus americana), less than 400.
← Fossils of the once common Whooping Crane date back millions of years. Numbers had declined to about 1,500 when Europeans settled North America, and by the 1940s wild numbers were less than 40. Action Plans have increased this to around 400, with some captive-bred immatures learning migration from ultralite imprinting
(Images International Crane Foundation)
All the sites linked above have resources on crane conservation, including summaries of Action Plans for threatened species on the ICF site. BirdLife International has three very relevant sections –
IBAs (Important Bird Areas) have been declared for many crane habitats worldwide including Brolga wetlands in New Guinea and the Atherton Tableland, north Queensland, for Sarus Cranes in Australia.
The Whooping Crane is still the world's most endangered crane. Patuxent WRC, International Crane Foundation and the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust have many news items and resources. Teaching captive-bred young Whooping Cranes how to migrate with ultralites is here, and the National Geographic Crane feature (2004) links to live browser cam of breeding and migration. Check out mass migration flocks of Sandhill Cranes at Rowes Sanctuary, Nebraska.