If you’ve never seen a living Demoiselle Crane in the wild, you might have seen one in a zoo or in the TV series Planet Earth. The scene in Planet Earth, where Golden Eagles ambushed Demoiselle Cranes as they migrated high over the Himalayas, is actually how I knew the bird.
They are in fact a rather difficult bird to see in the wild, at least in Europe, because most of the population is in the Steppes of central Asia and migrate over the inaccessible Himalayas, as noted. There are only three Small populations occurring near the Black Sea, and the Atlas plateau of northern Africa, and Turkey. However, all are in decline and the north Africa and Turkey populations are near extinction.
Of the places in Europe where they exist, there is only one place that you stand a fair chance at finding them as a birdwatcher, or so I’m told: Cyprus. From mid-August until mid- to late-September, 2-3 flocks (of 30-100 birds each) may be seen a week, passing through Cyprus on their way to Africa. Frequently, they will rest for the night on the Akrotiri salt flats, where they can be seen easily if you bring along a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. They usually wait for the sun to heat up the surface of the salt flat, generating thermals, and take off as a flock around 9:30-10am.
For more information:
- Anthropoides virgo (animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu)
- Birdlife International: fact sheet (birdlife.org)
- IUCN Red List information (iucnredlist.org)
- International Crane Foundation: fact file (savingcranes.org)
- Demoiselle Crane (wikipedia.org)