Back after 400 years, the majestic crane

A A A

The great dancing birds of myth and legend are to be brought back to Britain. Cranes, long-legged, long-necked and majestic, are to be the subject of a major reintroduction project aimed at establishing a new British breeding population.

The huge, blue-grey wetland birds died out in Britain about 1600. They were absent until a pair turned up in the Norfolk Broads in 1979. A tiny breeding flock clings on precariously.

But now conservation bodies want to reintroduce cranes in a much more formal and organised way so that a much more substantial breeding population can be permanently secured.

The birdsperform one of the most remarkable of all bird mating rituals - a "dance" display in which, sometimes in large numbers, they flap their wings, shake their plumage, raise and bow their heads and leap into the air.

The bird intended for Britain is the common or European crane, Grus grus, which breeds in eastern Europe and Scandinavia and migrates south for the winter to Spain, Portugal and north Africa.

The scheme - which is called the Great Crane Project, and was announced yesterday at the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water in the east Midlands - would involve releasing young birds at a still-to-be-selected site. It is being organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust and the cereal firm Jordans, the project's founding sponsor.

The consortium is looking at suitable sites across Britain for the release of the first young birds in two or three years' time. One potential problem is migration. Would the cranes have to be taught a migratory flightpath of their own? This was done in the US, with cranes being taught to follow microlight aircraft.

But they may not need to migrate. This has been the case with the East Anglian population. It has never numbered more than four breeding pairs, and no more than four chicks have been raised in one year, but it seems to be growing with the addition of wild birds who get lost in Britain in the winter. The maximum count last winter was 34.

Dr Baz Hughes, head of species conservation for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said: "Cranes are big, charismatic, noisy birds and fantastic ambassadors for wetland conservation."

"We want to be able to replace some of that fantastic wildlife previous generations could enjoy," said Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's conservation director.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral