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UK crane numbers highest for 400 years

A survey carried out by the RSPB has revealed that the UK crane population reached its highest level for over 400 years in 2019.

Over 200 birds were recorded across the UK last year, and from this, an impressive 56 pairs successfully raised 26 chicks.

Cranes used to be quite common in the UK but a combination of hunting and loss of wetland led to their extinction in the 1600s. In 1979, a small number of wild cranes returned to Norfolk, with cranes recolonising Scotland in 2012 and Wales in 2016.

At 4 feet, cranes are the tallest bird in the UK. They are known for their dances and complex displays with bows, pirouettes and bobs, which take place every year between the male and female.

Common Crane, RSPB reserve Suffolk

Conservation groups have been working together to encourage more birds. and improved habitat, including RSPB’s Lakenheath and Nene Washes reserves as well as Natural England’s Humberhead Peatlands, have been vital.

In 2010, the Great Crane Project – a partnership between the RSPB, WWT and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company – helped create and improve existing habitat, as well as hand-rear young birds for release on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group said: “The increase of cranes over the last few years shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance. With the support of our wonderful partners, we’ve been able to recreate more and more of the cranes’ natural habitat, giving them a place to recuperate after the winter and raise their chicks. They are not yet out of the woods, but their continued population climb year after year is a very positive sign.”

18-month-old cranes released by the Great Crane Project onto the Somerset Levels and Moors

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