The sarus crane (Antigone antigone) is a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia.
Historically in India, the species has been widely distributed in the lowlands along the Gangetic plains, extending south to the Godavari River and west to coastal Gujarat.
The tallest of the flying birds in the world, it stands at a height of up to 1.8 metre (5 feet 11 inches). It can be easily spotted on open wetlands in India.
The sarus crane is easily distinguished from other cranes in the region because of its grey colour and contrasting red head and white neck collar.
During its main breeding season in the rains, a pair builds an enormous nest “island,” a circular platform of reeds and grasses. The nests are 2 metres (6 feet) in diameter and nearly 1 metre (3 feet) high.
Sarus cranes form long-lasting bonds. In India, they are considered symbols of marital fidelity, believed to mate for life and pine the loss of their mates, even to the point of starving to death.
It was once a strong competitor for the National Bird of India. Today, sarus is the official state bird of Uttar Pradesh.
India has less than 15,000 sarus cranes. It is currently listed in Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List.
Sarus cranes are threatened by habitat destruction and/or degradation, hunting and collecting, environmental pollution and possibly diseases or competing species.
Wildlife Trust of India’s Sarus Crane Conservation Project runs across 10 districts of Uttar Pradesh, in order to conserve the species. The project also works to monitor and protect sarus nests on the Important Sarus Wetlands Sites and local croplands.
The Sarus Crane Conservation Project has identified, monitored and provided protection to more than 500 sarus nests across eastern UP with the help of local communities.
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