Wildlife of Pakistan


Birds

( cranes ]


Siberian Crane

(  Grus leucogeranus )

PHOTO CREDIT: Trevor Ford

Local name: Safed Koonj (Urdu)

Description and Biology

The Siberian Crane, also known as Asiatic Crane is snow white overall, with red skin covering front of head, face and around the eyes. Bill is long, thick and dark pink in color; legs are pinkish red. Wing tips are black which is only visible in flight.The Siberian Crane is a fairly large crane having a  body length of about 1/5 meters. Both sexes are alike abut immature have brownish yellow plumage.

The Siberian Crane’s distinctive morphology, vocalizations, and feeding and courtship behavior distinguish it from the other Grus species (Johnsgard 1983, Sauey 1985). Its clear, high-pitched voice is unique among cranes. It is also the most specialized in terms of its habitat requirements, exclusively using wetlands for nesting, feeding, and roosting. Siberian Cranes are most frequently observed wading and probing for food in shallow (up to 30 cm) water. Fledged juveniles emit piercing calls to solicit feeding by their parents, suggesting that Siberian Crane chicks are more dependent on parental care than are post-fledged chicks of other species.

Siberian Cranes nest in scattered breeding territories, preferring wide expanses of fresh water with good visibility. The Central population breeds in the northern taiga in sphagnum bogs and marshes. These marshes tend to be large, open wetlands surrounded by forests and divided by long, low inconspicuous ridges, the cranes nesting in the shallow waters between them (Sorokin and Kotyukov 1987). The nests consist of flat mounds of grass and sedge elevated 12-15 cm above the surrounding water. Eggs are generally laid from late May to mid-June, with peak production occurring in the first week of June. In most cases two eggs are laid, with only one chick surviving to fledging. The incubation period is about 29 days, and chicks fledge at 70-75 days.

In general, Siberian Cranes consume a wider variety of food items, both aquatic and terrestrial, on their breeding grounds than on their wintering grounds. The diet on the breeding grounds consists of plants, including roots, rhizomes, sprouts of sedges, seeds, horsetails, and berries and cranberries, as well as insects, fish, frogs, small mammals (e.g., voles and lemmings), and other small aquatic animals (including, on occasion, waterfowl). Animal foods are especially important at the beginning of the breeding season, when plant foods are unavailable, and during the chick-rearing period (Sauey 1985, A. Sorokin pers. comm., M. Nagendran pers. comm.).

During migration, the cranes roost and feed in large, isolated wetlands. The feeding and roosting areas at Zhalong, China, for example, are 3-5 km away from the nearest villages (J. Harris pers. comm.). Water depths of 30-60 cm are preferred. Occasionally Siberian Cranes will use dry mounds within or on the borders of wetlands, and even upland wet meadows. However, they virtually never use drier upland areas, even those close to roosting or feeding sites. This holds true even in drought years (all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and Iran Nature and Wildlife Magazine)

Habitat and Distribution:

The Siberian Crane is the third rarest species of crane in the world after the Whooping and Red-crowned Cranes. The total population was believed to number only a few hundred until 1981, when Chinese biologists discovered a wintering flock of 830-850 cranes at Poyang Lake along the middle Yangtze River in China. Subsequent field surveys have allowed scientists to revise the total population estimate upward to 2900-3000. These numbers, although encouraging, do not ease the conservation challenges the Siberian Crane faces. Archibald (1992b) notes that “from the tundra to the subtropics, few endangered species involve so many complex problems in so many countries as does the Siberian Crane.” The species is classified as Endangered under the revised IUCN Red List Categories. The Central and Western populations, because of their extremely limited numbers, are Critically Endangered.

The species is divided into three populations. All but a few belong to the Eastern population. These birds breed in northeastern Siberia and winter along the middle Yangtze River in China. The Central population winters in the Indian state of Rajasthan, most regularly at Keoladeo National Park. Banding studies indicate that the population’s breeding grounds lie in the lower basin of the Kunovat River in western Siberia. After a two-year absence, four birds, representing the entire known population, were observed on their wintering grounds in February. The Western population, which according to recent counts has only nine birds, winters at a single site along the south coast of the Caspian Sea in Iran

The Central population (Afghanistan, Pakistan and India), as observed on its traditional wintering grounds at India’s Keoladeo National Park in February 1996, included only four individuals; it is possible that other members of the population have continued to winter elsewhere in India. The breeding grounds in western Siberia have been tentatively identified through satellite telemetry studies. In 1981, a breeding population of Siberian Cranes was located in the lower basin of the Kunovat River (a tributary of the Ob River), about 60 km east of Gorki (Sorokin and Kotyukov 1987). A juvenile from this area, satellite-tracked in 1992, followed a route toward India until its signal was lost near the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan border. This indicates that the Kunovat cranes are probably the same birds that spend the winter at Keoladeo NP, near Bharatpur in the Indian state of Rajasthan (Archibald 1994). This was confirmed in February 1996 when a wild chick, color-banded at Kunovat in 1995, was observed at Keoladeo NP. This migration route is among the longest of any crane population. The presumed route passes through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, with possible traditional stopover points at Lake Tengiz and the Naurzum wetlands in Kazakhstan, and at Ab-i-Estada in Afghanistan (Jamil 1994). The final leg of the migration route brings these birds across the Indus basin and northwest India.

Wintering Siberian Cranes were reported with regularity in the Gangetic basin through the 1800s (Sauey et al. 1987). Since at least 1937, however, the only known wintering site of the population has been among the artificially improved wetlands at Keoladeo NP. In extremely dry years, however, the lack of water in the park can prompt the population to avoid this area, or to disperse from Keoladeo to other sites. Only a few of these alternative wintering grounds have been identified (Singh et al. 1987).

The population has been counted annually at Keoladeo NP since 1965. Since then, the population has declined steadily from around 200 in 1965 to just four individuals—a pair with a chick and a lone adult—in 1996. None were observed at the park in the winter of 1993-94, and 1994-1995. The alternative wintering site has not been identified. In the summer of 1994, not less than 9-10 Siberian Cranes were reported on the presumed breeding grounds of the population in the Kunovat basin (S. Sorokin pers. obs.). In February 1995, two Siberian Cranes were reported in northeast Iran along the Afghanistan border among a flock of Eurasian Cranes (F. Mostofi pers. comm.). Data from radio-tracking studies show that the Eurasian Cranes wintering in this area nest in the Kunovat basin, and it is probable that Siberian Cranes seen in this area also nest in the Kunovat region.

There have been only a few records to confirm its presumed migration route through Pakistan. In December 1981 a hunter from Pakistan during a meeting with Dr. Steven Landfried of US Fish and Wildlife Service claimed a hunt of 3 Siberian cranes along the Kurram River in 1961. Other reports outlining the passage if this bird through Pakistan are few observations in the record. These observations include report of a stopover of a group of 13 Sibes over alluvial mud flats of the river Indus in Bhakkar District of Punjab on March 19, 1988. Two birds of the group were sighted on March 20, 1988 and again a group was seen on March 21, 1988 by two hunters of the area. In late 1980s a few birds were also seen by a French diplomat near Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab. 

The loss of adult and young birds during migrations through Pakistan and Afghanistan is thought to be the leading factor behind the decline. Attempts to supplement the population with captive-reared birds were initiated in 1991, and have continued each year up to the present. Results have so far been inconclusive. As of Autumn 1995, none of the seven birds released in the north are known to have migrated south successfully, and none of the six birds released in the south are known to have migrated north successfully. Hunting pressure during migration has likely been a significant factor behind the steady decline of the Central population. Crane hunting is a traditional sport in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the population passes during migration (see the Demoiselle Crane species account in this volume). Demoiselle and Eurasian Cranes are the main object of hunting activity, but Siberian Cranes are occasionally taken (Roberts and Landfried 1987, Jan and Ahmad 1995, Landfried et al. 1995). Sauey (1985) concluded that the losses in the Central population are “almost certainly” attributable to hunting, while Archibald (1992b) noted that uncontrolled hunting in this region is “the weakest link in the chain of... survival” for the Central population. Jan and Ahmad (1995) and Landfried et al. (1995) summarize the legislative, educational, and research efforts that have been undertaken in response to the hunting situation in this region. The government of Pakistan has established the Indus Reserve (in 1990) and the Lakki Refuge (in 1992) to provide greater protection to cranes during migration and to provide education and training opportunities (Landfried et al. 1995). 

Pakistan =  M

M = Present during migration

Recent Sightings and Population Surveys:

Population     Number Trend Source
Eastern 2900-3000     Unknown Song et al. 1995,
Gui 1995,
Harris et al. 1995,
J. Harris pers. comm.
Central 4 Steadily declining.
Observed on the
traditional wintering
grounds in February
1996 after a two-year        
absence.
A. Sorokin pers. comm.
Western 9 Holding at 9-11 birds
on the wintering
grounds since the
mid 1980s. Highly
vulnerable.
A. Sorokin pers. comm

(all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp).

 

Sarus Crane
( Grus antigone )

PHOTO CREDIT: www.zoonet.org

Local name: Sarus Koonj (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

There are three subspecies of Sarus Crane. 
Indian Sarus Crane G. a. antigone
Eastern Sarus Crane G. a. sharpii
Australian Sarus Crane     G. a. gilli
 

The sarus crane is the world's tallest flying bird; a large male may stand six feet tall. The notable feature of the Sarus is the grey and white body plumage, with a bright red head. These cranes reach sexual maturity after 5-6 years. 2-3 eggs are laid after an incubation period of 4-5 weeks. The life span is 15-20 years in captivity.

Indian Sarus Cranes have adapted to the dense human population in India and interact closely with people in areas where traditions of tolerance prevail. They breed throughout the year (except in May and June, with a peak from July-September), moving locally and utilizing a wide variety of habitat types depending on food availability, cropping patterns, and other seasonal factors. Their optimal habitat includes a combination of marshes, ponds, fallow lands, and cultivated lands (Gole 1989b, 1991b). The diet includes aquatic plants, invertebrates, and grains.

Adult pairs use cultivated fields, fallow land, and other drier habitats, as well as flooded fields, rice paddies, and degraded (saline and water-logged) lands. Families with pre-fledged chicks, however, use wetlands almost exclusively (Gole 1993a). Breeding pairs use larger wetlands where they are available, but are typically scattered across the landscape, nesting in fields, along canals and irrigation ditches, beside village ponds, and in shallow marshes, rice paddies, jheels, and reed beds (Gole 1989b, Suwal 1995). The size of nesting territories ranges from 1 ha in populated areas to 27 ha within protected areas (Gole 1989b). Nests of all the subspecies consist of wetland vegetation and other available materials. Usually two eggs are laid. Incubation takes 31-34 days and chicks fledge at 85-100 days. Increasing human demands on India’s wetlands may be contributing to the decline of the Sarus Crane by reducing the recruitment rate within the population (all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp).

Habitat and Distribution:

The Sarus Crane occurs in the northern Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, and northeast Australia, and is the only crane species that breeds in Asia south of the Himalayas. Although Sarus Cranes are non-migratory, populations do move on a seasonal basis in response to monsoons and droughts. In general, Indian Sarus Cranes are more sedentary than Eastern and Australian Sarus Cranes, undertaking extended movement only during times of severe drought.

In Pakistan only the Indian Sarus Crane is found in a very limited area in Tharparkar District of Sind Province, near the border with India. The current range of the Indian Sarus Crane includes the plains of northern, northwestern, and western India and the western half of Nepal’s Tarai lowlands. The population has declined sharply over the last several decades. This decline is probably continuing, given the species’ relatively low recruitment rate within India (Gole 1989b, P. Gole pers. comm.). Sarus Cranes are most common and densely distributed in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Haryana; they are less common in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh (Gole 1989b). The population in Nepal is small (200-500) and apparently declining (R. Suwal pers. comm.). In Pakistan, India’s Punjab, and western Bangladesh, the Sarus Crane now occurs rarely (Gole 1989a, 1989b, 1991b; Iqubal 1992; M. Ahmad pers. comm.). Since 1993, a few have been observed along the Indus River in Pakistan not far from the border with India in Sindh/Rajasthan (A. Ahmad pers. comm., M. Ahmad pers. comm.).

Sarus were never found in big numbers in Pakistan. Even in 1888 they were considered a rare bird in these areas as Pakistan is situated at its western historical limits. There are breeding records from some areas, for example a breeding pair was recorded from North Western Frontier Province in 1901. Another pair was seen breeding in Drigh lake in Sindh in 1929. In 1939 again a breeding pair was found from a nearby lake. In Pakistan Sarus crane was last seen in August 1968, when a pair was observed on Chenab River above Marala barrage and this was the last confirmed sighting of this bird in Pakistan. 

After 25 years Sarus crane were sighted in the desert area of Thar. During a field survey held in February 1993 seven Sarus cranes at two different localities were sighted. Three birds were observed at Sangha Talla, a water pond and four birds were again spotted at Nalyasar lake. The distance between these two ponds is about 3 km and they are located in south-east of Sind, near Pak-Indian border. Again in November 1993, during another survey 16 Sarus crane were observed in the same area. A small flock of 5-6 Sarus Crane  were sighted at the Nalyasar and Bhansar lakes in the Nagarparkar area of the Thar Desert in 1999. A policeman shot one of these rare birds and the other flew away. Until now, there has been no report of any more sightings though they are still found in big numbers on the Indian side.

The current distribution of the Indian Sarus Crane represents a substantial constriction of its historic range. Sarus Cranes formerly occurred across the subcontinent, from the province of Sindh in Pakistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east, throughout the Gangetic plain, and in the arid and semi-arid regions of the Deccan Plateau of south-central India. They were common in the dry season in Pakistan until the 1960s (Gole 1989a, 1989b). In Nepal, they have been extirpated from the eastern half of the Tarai lowlands (Suwal 1995). Although still common in India, where the association between people and Sarus Cranes is ancient and close, they are increasingly restricted to regions where traditional land and water management practices are maintained (P. Gole pers. comm.). 

Pakistan =  r

r = Resident (populations < 1500)

(all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and Dawn Newspaper).

 

Recent Sightings and Population Surveys:

Sightings:

1999: A small flock of 5-6 Sarus Crane were sighted at the Nalyasar and Bhansar lakes in the Nagarparkar area of the Thar Desert in 1999. A policeman shot one of these rare birds and the other flew away. Until now, there has been no report of any more sightings though they are still found in big numbers on the Indian side

 

Eurasian Common Crane

( Grus grus )

PHOTO CREDIT: Unknown

Local name: Koonj (Urdu) 

Description and Biology:

This large bird is outwardly similar to storks and herons but is distinguished by its long, hanging tail feathers. Cranes, unlike storks do not perch at heights or in tall trees. These cranes are long-necked with short, strong bills. Their legs are also long and very strong. Body length is 114 centimeters and weigh up to 6/5 Kilogram's. Plumage is livid gray in color, head and throat feathers are black. A prominent curving white line is seen on the face stretching from the eyes to the sides of the head and throat. A red skin patch is also visible on top of the head; a combination of these colors gives the bird a special kind of beauty. Both male and female species look alike but immature have brown plumage.

The Eurasian Crane breeds in wetlands of the Eurasian boreal and temperate forest zones, from lowlands up to 2200 m, often foraging in nearby upland areas (Walkinshaw 1973, Johnsgard 1983, Prange 1989). Across this extensive breeding range, the species nests in a variety of shallow (20-40 cm) freshwater wetland types, including open marshes, forested swamps (especially birch and alder swamps), sedge meadows, lake edges, and bogs. In central Asia, drier habitats (even semidesert areas) may be used if water is available. Former breeding habitats in southern Europe were primarily permanent, densely vegetated marshes. Eurasian Cranes are omnivorous, probing and picking for a wide range of plant and animal foods both on dry land and in wetlands. Even during the chick-rearing period, however, they prefer to forage in upland areas (including agricultural fields) with short vegetation. During this period, animal foods—worms, snails, insects, arthropods, frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents—are very important (especially for the chicks) and tend to be more frequently consumed.

In most areas, Eurasian Cranes prefer large, isolated nesting territories with nesting sites that are well protected from disturbance. However, they have proven adaptable to even heavy human interference under some circumstances

Nests consist of mounds of wetland vegetation. Eggs are laid primarily in May, usually two per clutch. The incubation period is 28-31 days, and chicks fledge at around 65-70 days. After the chicks fledge, Eurasian Cranes gather in large flocks prior to migration. In some areas these flocks assemble in agricultural fields, where they can cause crop damage. Flocks increase in size as the cranes gather at traditional staging areas before and during migration. Along their migration routes, they often forage in agricultural fields and roost in shallow lakes, large riparian wetlands, wet meadows, and other wetlands  (all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and Iran Nature and Wildlife Magazine).

Habitat and Distribution:

The Eurasian Crane is the most widely distributed of the fifteen crane species and is the third most abundant species of crane after the Sandhill and Demoiselle Crane. The total population, estimated at between 220,000 and 250,000, is probably increasing, although some populations are declining. The breeding range extends across Eurasia from Scandinavia, Western and Central Europe, Ukraine, Belorus, and Russia to western and northeastern China, northern Mongolia, and eastern Russia. The species’ wintering grounds include portions of France, the Iberian Peninsula, north Africa, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, India, southeastern China, and perhaps Indochina. Isolated breeding populations occur in eastern Turkey and the Tibet Plateau. The Eurasian Crane has also been recorded as an occasional migrant or wintering bird in Japan, the Korean peninsula, and western North America.

In Pakistan the major population comes from the Western Siberia Population. The breeding grounds are east of the Ural Mountains in Russia and northern Kazakhstan. According to many reports, the population is declining in many regions (J. van der Ven pers. comm.). The majority of birds in the population follow a migration corridor southwest toward Afghanistan, and then southeast across Pakistan to wintering grounds in western and central India (Ahmad and Shah 1991, Khachar et al. 1991, Gole 1993a, Higuchi et al. 1994a). A smaller portion of the population migrates through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to wintering grounds along the Iran-Afghanistan border, especially in the valley of the Hamluth River and the Seistan Basin. Some may migrate across the Tibetan Plateau and through Nepal to wintering areas in east India (the Brahmaputra Basin). 

Hunting is a significant concern for the populations that migrate through Afghanistan and Pakistan. The birds encounter the worst threat in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan where catching live crane is a favourite sport. For inhabitants here, crane hunting is a local tradition and a symbol of social status. They are gifted to guests and adorn their lawns and courtyards. According to a World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) study, there are 200 hunting camps in Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts of the NWFP to trap the birds with nine hunters and 12 decoy cranes per camp on an average. The hunting season falls between October and November, when the birds migrate from their breeding grounds to wintering grounds and in spring from March to April when they return. Kurram, Gambella and Kashew rivers are the major sites for crane trapping in Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts in NWFP. They are trapped with soya, a contraption of a long, thin, silky rope with a lead ball (weighing150 gramme) at one end. At the dead of night, as the unsuspecting birds fly past, the hunters simulate decoy cranes for long and loud calls. As they hear the calls, the cranes come down and are hit by the soya thrown up like a projectile. The alighting birds are then trapped, though about half of them are injured in the process. The migratory birds are also indiscriminately fired at by the people living around the rivers of Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts. The Demoiselle Crane and the critically endangered central population of the Siberian Crane are also affected by this practice (Roberts and Landfried 1987; see the Siberian Crane account in this volume). As many as 5000 cranes of all three species (10-15% of the total population of migrating cranes) have been shot or captured in Pakistan in a single season, and the popularity of the sport continues to grow (Ahmad and Shah 1991, Jan and Ahmad 1995).

Important wetlands along the Kurram, Kashew and Gambila rivers in Pakistan have been completely degraded due to diversion of its water for irrigation and flood protection. Besides, deforestation in the catchment regions of the rivers is causing siltation. The silt load deposited in wetlands and domestic wastes drained and dumped there cause eutrophication which increases herb and shrub growth. This reduces marsh lands and shallow waters, the preferred breeding grounds of cranes. Besides, the pesticides used by the farmers have proved to be a bane for the cranes. With many of them still using banned pesticides, cranes have fallen susceptible to these as studies show presence of chemicals like benzene hexachloride and aldrin. This gradually leads to their demise.

Pakistan* =  M, W
M = Present during migration
        (breeding and wintering in other countries)
W = present during winter

* = indicates countries where the birds occur in significant
        numbers at some point in the year

(all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and WWF-Pakistan and Down to Earth Magazine )

Demoiselle Crane

( Anthropoides virgo )

PHOTO CREDIT: www.zoonet.org

Local name: Koonj (Urdu) 

Description and Biology:

The Demoiselle Crane is outwardly similar to the Common Crane but smaller, with a bodylength of less than one meters. Its bill is also shorter; white feathers on the face are long and hanging without the appearance of a red patch on top of the head. The Demoiselle Crane has blueish gray plumage with the face, neck and front of the chest being black. A set of black, hanging gathers can be seen at the front of the chest. Both sexes are alike but immature have brownish gray plumage.

In nesting areas, Demoiselle Cranes prefer patchy vegetation (e.g., Artemesia spp., Stipa spp., Festuca spp.) of sufficient height to conceal them and their nests, but short enough to allow them to look out while incubating. Nest sites near the tops of slopes are especially valued. Nests are found on small open patches of grass, cultivated ground, or gravel, and show minimal preparation. Small pebbles and some thin bedding may be gathered together, but eggs are often laid directly on the ground. Usually two eggs are laid. The incubation period is 27-29 days, and the fledging period of 55-65 days is the shortest of any crane (Johnsgard 1983, S. Swengel pers. comm.).

Demoiselle Crane families are mobile soon after the chicks hatch. Their diet consists primarily of plant materials, insects, and other small animal foods. During the growing season and along migration routes, they will feed as well on cereal grains, peanuts, beans, and other crops. During the prefledging period, adults and chicks can cover considerable distances in their search for insects and other food items. In dry years, they may become essentially nomadic. After the chicks fledge in mid-summer, the cranes gather in flocks and move to agricultural fields, where grains and other gleanings are abundant.

Migration begins in late summer. The various populations encounter diverse terrain, from sea level to Himalayan mountain passes, during migration. Several populations undertake significant sea crossings (the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean). By early autumn most Demoiselle Cranes have arrived on their wintering grounds. Birds from the Black Sea and Kalmykia populations winter primarily in cultivated fields as well as acacia savannahs, grasslands, and riparian areas in Sudan and other parts of northeastern Africa (Hogg et al. 1984). The wintering birds in India forage in agricultural fields, stubble fields, and riverbeds, and roost in shallow water or on sandbars and mudflats surrounded by water (Gole 1993a) (all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and Iran Nature and Wildlife Magazine).

Habitat and Distribution:

Demoiselle Cranes are primarily birds of dry grasslands (savannahs, steppes, and semi-deserts). They do, however, utilize agricultural fields and wetter steppe areas, and are normally found within a few hundred meters of stream and rivers, shallow lakes, depressions, and other natural wetlands (Winter 1991, Yang and Tong 1991, Fujita et al. 1994). The breeding sites of the Turkey population are found in wetlands along rivers and creeks (Kasparek 1988). The density of breeding birds and size of breeding territories can vary widely from year to year in response to precipitation levels. Where water is available, they will inhabit semi-desert areas and even true deserts, alkali flats, and other vegetation-poor lands. They have been found nesting as high as 3000 m above sea level in mountain valleys and steppes of Kirghizia (Kydyraliev 1995)

The Demoiselle Crane is the second most abundant of the world’s cranes (only the Sandhill Crane is more numerous). The total population is estimated at 200-240,000, but reliable surveys of the species have been conducted in only limited portions of its range. There are no known subspecies. Six main populations are distinguished here. The three eastern populations—the Eastern Asia, Kazakhstan/Central Asia, and Kalmykia—are abundant, numbering in the tens of thousands. The Black Sea population consists of approximately 500 individuals. A disjunct resident population in the Atlas Plateau of northern Africa is believed to include no more than 50 individuals. A small breeding population exists in Turkey.

In Pakistan the major population comes from the Kazakhstan/Central Asia population. This population is estimated at 100,000. The breeding grounds are east of the Caspian Sea throughout Kazakhstan. The population migrates through Afghanistan and Pakistan to wintering grounds in the western portions of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian state of Gujarat is the core wintering area. The states of Maharashtra and Karnataka are also important wintering areas, while Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are critical during severe droughts (Perennou and Mundkur 1991). The degree of concentration in wintering flocks also varies in response to monsoon patterns (Perennou and Mundkur 1991). This population declined sharply in the 1950s and 1960s, but stabilized and eventually began to increase in the 1980s (Kovshar et al. 1995). The breeding grounds are east of the Ural Mountains in Russia and northern Kazakhstan. According to many reports, the population is declining in many regions (J. van der Ven pers. comm.). The majority of birds in the population follow a migration corridor southwest toward Afghanistan, and then southeast across Pakistan to wintering grounds in western and central India (Ahmad and Shah 1991, Khachar et al. 1991, Gole 1993a, Higuchi et al. 1994a). A smaller portion of the population migrates through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to wintering grounds along the Iran-Afghanistan border, especially in the valley of the Hamluth River and the Seistan Basin. Some may migrate across the Tibetan Plateau and through Nepal to wintering areas in east India (the Brahmaputra Basin). 

Hunting is a significant concern for the populations that migrate through Afghanistan and Pakistan. The birds encounter the worst threat in the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan where catching live crane is a favourite sport. For inhabitants here, crane hunting is a local tradition and a symbol of social status. They are gifted to guests and adorn their lawns and courtyards. According to a World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) study, there are 200 hunting camps in Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts of the NWFP to trap the birds with nine hunters and 12 decoy cranes per camp on an average. The hunting season falls between October and November, when the birds migrate from their breeding grounds to wintering grounds and in spring from March to April when they return. Kurram, Gambella and Kashew rivers are the major sites for crane trapping in Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts in NWFP. They are trapped with soya, a contraption of a long, thin, silky rope with a lead ball (weighing150 gramme) at one end. At the dead of night, as the unsuspecting birds fly past, the hunters simulate decoy cranes for long and loud calls. As they hear the calls, the cranes come down and are hit by the soya thrown up like a projectile. The alighting birds are then trapped, though about half of them are injured in the process. The migratory birds are also indiscriminately fired at by the people living around the rivers of Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts. The Eurasian Crane and the critically endangered central population of the Siberian Crane are also affected by this practice (Roberts and Landfried 1987; see the Siberian Crane account in this volume). As many as 5000 cranes of all three species (10-15% of the total population of migrating cranes) have been shot or captured in Pakistan in a single season, and the popularity of the sport continues to grow (Ahmad and Shah 1991, Jan and Ahmad 1995).

Important wetlands along the Kurram, Kashew and Gambila rivers in Pakistan have been completely degraded due to diversion of its water for irrigation and flood protection. Besides, deforestation in the catchment regions of the rivers is causing siltation. The silt load deposited in wetlands and domestic wastes drained and dumped there cause eutrophication which increases herb and shrub growth. This reduces marsh lands and shallow waters, the preferred breeding grounds of cranes. Besides, the pesticides used by the farmers have proved to be a bane for the cranes. With many of them still using banned pesticides, cranes have fallen susceptible to these as studies show presence of chemicals like benzene hexachloride and aldrin. This gradually leads to their demise  

Pakistan =  M, W
M = Present during migration
W = Present during winter

(all above information from Meine, Curt D. and George W. Archibald (Eds). 1996. The cranes: - Status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. 294pp, and WWF-Pakistan and Down to Earth Magazine ).


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