Encounters with a magnificent bird

N. Shiva Kumar


In the breeding season, the red head of the sarus crane becomes brighter and takes on vermilion hues, which is an indication of its fertility. Photo: Kailash Navrang
Six feet in height, the sarus crane is the tallest flying bird in the world and towers over the two-feet-tall purple moorhen in the mushy marshlands. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
A family of four in close proximity to each other. The adults keep the young ones safe by providing them with protective flanking. Photo: N. SHIVA KUMAR
A rare congregation of 10 sarus cranes, usually noticed while roosting at dusk or while bonding in the non-breeding season. Photo: Rajesh Bhalla
Sarus cranes pair for life, yet every year in the lush landscapes during the monsoon season, they display a dramatic hopping dance to strengthen their bond. Photo: N. SHIVA KUMAR
It is vital that the egg and newborn chick are protected against the elements and feral dogs, so the male and female sarus crane take turns guarding the nest and chick. Photo: Kailash Navrang
Thd Dhanauri wetlands in Gautam Buddha Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh. Sarus cranes prefer such vast freshwater swampland habitats with minimum disturbances where they can frolic in peace. (There is a sarus crane pair at the top right-hand corner of this panoramic photograph.) Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
Being tall and with an average weight of 9 to 10 kg, the sarus crane sometimes needs to run with few long steps to before lift-off into the air. Photo: N. SHIVA KUMAR
Wing-stretching is another ploy the sarus crane has adopted to communicate and also to exercise its outsized wings that can spread up to 8 feet (2.4 m). Photo: Winayak Kumar
The sarus crane’s black-tipped primary feathers (at the edge of its massive wings) support the bird’s mid-air manoeuvres and help it during landing. Photo: N. Shiva Kumar
A sarus crane pair welcomes its first chick, with another egg yet to hatch in the large ground nest that has been made on a grassy mound in the wetlands. Photo: Kailash Navrang
While a sarus crane is busy in its ponderous way looking for titbits in the grass, a cow in proximity to it is equally busy munching grass. Photo: Coomaar Carthik
Village residents tending to their cattle usually ignore the wading sarus cranes as they go about their daily duties. Photo: N. SHIVA KUMAR