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Crane 'parent' Amy King exercising a Common Crane chick. Photo by JS Lees (
Crane 'parent' Amy King exercising a Common Crane chick. Photo by JS Lees ( image

Cranes fighting fit and ready for release

Birdwatch news team
Posted on: 23 Aug 2013

Some 23 young Common Cranes, part of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) Great Crane Project, will be released onto the Somerset Moors and Levels in September, the trust has announced.

The youngsters were raised from eggs taken from Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, Brandenburg, Germany. They are prepared for life in the wild by experts at Crane School at Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire. The birds are taught how to forage and avoid danger by human carers, who wear disguises to prevent them from becoming tame.

WWT aviculturist Amy King is ‘mum’ to the cranes and took a series of photographs showing two young birds sparring. She said: “We are surrogate parents to the birds and try to teach them all they need to survive, but some things they just pick up on their own.

“In the photos the young cranes are sparring, as many young animals do. It looks dramatic but for now it is just practice. Once in the wild, they’ll use these skills to determine their place in the pecking order and, if they need, to battle potential predators.”

RSPB Great Crane Project Manager Damon Bridge added: “It'll be great to get this year’s youngsters down here to join the other cranes. They’ll soon learn the ropes with the help of the more streetwise older birds and with the support of our local farmers there’s plenty of wild food for them to get stuck into.”

Cranes were once a widespread and culturally significant part of British wildlife. Some 400 years ago, however, they had been lost as a breeding bird due to drainage of wetlands and overhunting.

The Great Crane Project, a partnership between the WWT, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, plans to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout Britain. A total of 57 birds have been released so far, with an aim of around 100 by the end of the project in 2015.

Click here to see a gallery of Amy King's photos.

Crane flock takes to the Somerset Levels
These young cranes are being led to their new home on the Somerset Moors and Levels
by their carers.The birds were released last year. Photo by Nick Upton/2020 Vision.

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