From The Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service Newsletter
The common crane has continued to make a comeback after the latest survey revealed a record breaking 48 pairs across the UK in 2016 rearing 15 successfully fledged chicks. The total population is now at an estimated 160 birds – its highest number since cranes returned to the UK in 1978 after an absence of more than 400 years.
The Eastern Region has been at the forefront of the success, seeing 19 pairs in 2016 rearing an incredible 11 of the total UK fledglings. The Cambridgeshire Fens in particular had a bumper year for cranes, with 8 pairs and 7 young recorded at locations including RSPB reserves at Nene Washes and Lakenheath Fen. The Norfolk Broads continues to be a stronghold for the birds with 11 pairs and 4 fledglings in 2016.
Standing at a height of 4ft, this graceful grey bird with a long, elegant neck is one of the tallest in the UK. Wild cranes were once a widespread breeding species before they became extinct through hunting and the loss of their favoured wetland habitat in the 17th century.
In 1978, a small number of wild cranes returned to the UK and established themselves in a small area of the Norfolk Broads before slowly spreading to other areas of eastern England, benefiting from work to improve their habitat at RSPB Lakenheath and RSPB Nene Washes.
Wild cranes are now breeding in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and East Scotland, as well as populations in Somerset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. The population is now roughly half from the Great Crane Project’s reintroductions and half from the natural re-colonisation that has been occurring in the east of England for the last 30 years.
You can find out more about the project and where to see the cranes in the wild at: www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk