Environment

Simply Sarus

Bangalore 18/08/2008: Sarus Cranes, nested at Karanji Lake on the outskirts of Mysore city. A pair of Sarus cranes from Mysore Zoo was shifted to the special enclosure at the pecock park on the banks of the lake, layed two eggs, one chick hatched 2 weeks ago. Adults are grey with a bare red head and white crown and a long dark pointed bill. In flight, the long neck is kept straight. The sexes do not differ in color, but young birds are duller and browner. On average the male is larger than the female; Indian males can attain a maximum height of approximately 200 cm (6.6 ft), with a wingspan of 250 cm (8.5 ft), making them the world's tallest living flying bird. The average weight is 7.3 kg (16 lbs). They are omnivorous, eating insects, aquatic plants and animals, crustaceans, seeds and berries, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. It nests on the ground, laying two to three eggs in a bulky nest. Both the male and female take turns sitting on the nest, and the male is the main protector. The female incubates for 31-34 days, with the male taking short turns while she feeds. There were about 20.000 mature Sarus Cranes left in the wild in 2006 (BLI 2006a, b). The Indian population is less than 10,000 birds; This means that the global population has declined by about a third since 1980, and is expected to continue to do so until the late 2010s. Threats constitute habitat destruction and/or degradation, hunting and collecting, as well as environmental pollution and possibly diseases or competing species. Photo: K Gopinathan , Bangalore.

Bangalore 18/08/2008: Sarus Cranes, nested at Karanji Lake on the outskirts of Mysore city. A pair of Sarus cranes from Mysore Zoo was shifted to the special enclosure at the pecock park on the banks of the lake, layed two eggs, one chick hatched 2 weeks ago. Adults are grey with a bare red head and white crown and a long dark pointed bill. In flight, the long neck is kept straight. The sexes do not differ in color, but young birds are duller and browner. On average the male is larger than the female; Indian males can attain a maximum height of approximately 200 cm (6.6 ft), with a wingspan of 250 cm (8.5 ft), making them the world's tallest living flying bird. The average weight is 7.3 kg (16 lbs). They are omnivorous, eating insects, aquatic plants and animals, crustaceans, seeds and berries, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. It nests on the ground, laying two to three eggs in a bulky nest. Both the male and female take turns sitting on the nest, and the male is the main protector. The female incubates for 31-34 days, with the male taking short turns while she feeds. There were about 20.000 mature Sarus Cranes left in the wild in 2006 (BLI 2006a, b). The Indian population is less than 10,000 birds; This means that the global population has declined by about a third since 1980, and is expected to continue to do so until the late 2010s. Threats constitute habitat destruction and/or degradation, hunting and collecting, as well as environmental pollution and possibly diseases or competing species. Photo: K Gopinathan , Bangalore.   | Photo Credit: K_Gopinathan

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He is the world’s tallest flying bird. He is also very handsome. But sadly he is on the Red List. How did that happen?

Greetings! Do we need to celebrate the Wildlife Week? After all, every time we open our Jungle Book together, it’s wildlife time for us. With Deepavali round the corner, I thought it was a good time to go down to the wetlands and meet a feathered friend of mine, the Indian Sarus Crane.

What’s the connection? Well, he’s the guy who made it all happen — the Ramayana I mean. When sage poet Valmiki was pondering over how he could write the story of Lord Ram, he came upon a pair of Sarus cranes. As he watched, a hunter’s arrow struck the male bird in the chest and he fell dead. His sorrowful mate wept painfully and Valmiki was filled with grief. He cursed the hunter in fine verse, which when he recalled later, turned out to be in rhyme. It was this rhyme he used to compose the epic poem and the pathos of the grieving female bird is reflected in Sita’s sorrow.

Daring dancer

Our friend Sarus is the world’s tallest flying bird. He is about six feet in height and his wings spread to eight feet (that is a sight to see, especially when he is dancing.) He is also very handsome. His head, throat and upper neck are a deep red while the rest of his body is light grey. He has a white collar separating the red of his upper neck and the grey below. His legs and toes are red too.

He has a Greek species name Grus Antigone and has a couple of cousins abroad, the Eastern Sarus Crane who lives in Myanmar, Cambodia and parts of South Asia and the Australian Sarus Crane who lives, well Down Under! Indian Sarus Cranes are found mainly in wetlands, marshes and ponds in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana ,Rajasthan, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Out of the total population of 8000 to 10000 Sarus Cranes, around 3000 are found in Uttar Pradesh alone. Little wonder he has the honour of being their state bird. To think he actually was in the running for the National Bird’s post. Well good guys don’t always finish first, I tell you!

Drop me a line at sherook@wildmail.com

A Children for Animals and Nature Unlimited Intiative

Chick talk

The Sarus builds his nests in marshlands and flooded paddy fields. Chicks are born during the monsoon mostly and one or maybe two eggs are hatched after 30 to 35 days. Both the parents take turns to warm the eggs. The chicks are born yellowish brown and begin to follow their parents in a couple of days. Young cranes have a brown head and it is as they grow they get to be as good looking as their parents.

When it comes to food, its roots, grass, crops, insects, fish and water snakes. With wetlands being hijacked by humans for cultivation, the homes of the Sarus is under threat. But these affable creatures have adapted to the human invasion and are quite at home in flooded grain fields. But like all of us, he lives in dangerous times. The wetlands are no longer safe and healthy, what with the pesticide residues in cultivated areas and sewage that seeps in. The Sarus is on the Red List too and threatened with extinction.

Sarus Cranes pair for life. So much so, when one partner dies the other pines away shedding its life for the lost mate.

Fun facts

Unlike most cranes the Sarus does not migrate.

The red head , neck and the legs turn brighter during the breeding season.

If two eggs are laid at a time, there is 48- hour gap before the second one is out.

Bharatpur the bird paradise in Rajasthan is where you should head for if you want to meet the Sarus.

From Sheroo’s Jungle Book

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 12:40:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Simply-Sarus/article16886265.ece

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