CRANE, a large wading-bird of the exten sive and cosmopolitan family Gruidce. Cranes are often confused with herons, but really are related to the rails. The typical and most widely known species is probably the common crane (Grus communis) of Europe and northern Asia, which has long figured in literature and legendary history. Cranes are large birds, the biggest, as for example our whooping crane, holding its head, when erect, nearly as high as that of a man; but this height is mainly owing to the long neck which eminently fit them for living in marshes and situations subject to inundations, where they usually seek their food. This is principally of vegetable matter, consisting of the seeds of various plants or grains plundered from grounds recently plowed or sown. They also insects nsects, worms, frogs, lizards, reptiles, small fish and the spawn of various aquatic animals. They build their nests among bushes or on tussocks in the marshes, constructing them of rushes, reeds, etc., surmounted by some soft material. They lay but two eggs, which are buff, gray or greenish in ground-color and vari ously marked with darker spots. These birds are said to mate for life.
The cranes annually migrate and perform journeys astonishing for their great length and hazardous character, transporting themselves from the tropical heat of southern India and central Africa to the icy waters of Lapland and Siberia and from Arctic America to the tropics. They are remarkable for making numerous circles and evolutions in the air when setting out on their journeys, and generally form two lines meeting in an angle forward, led by one of the strongest of their number, whose trum pet-like voice is heard as if directing their advance, when the flock is far above the clouds and entirely out of sight. To this call-note of the leader the flock frequently respond by a united clangor, which, at such a distance, does not produce an unpleasant effect. From the sagacity with which these birds vary their flight, according to the states of the atmosphere, they have, from the earliest ages, been popularly regarded as indicators of everts; and their manoeuvres were attentively watched and inter preted by the augurs and arnspices among the Romans—a circumstance which, together with their general 'harmlessness and apparent gravity of demeanor, led to their being held in a sort of veneration, even by some civilized nations.
When obliged to take wing from the ground, cranes rise with considerable difficulty, striking quickly with their wings and trailing their feet along and near the ground until they have gained a sufficient elevation to commence wheel ing in circles, which grow wider and wider until they have soared to the highest regions of the air. When their flight is high and silent, it is regarded as an indication of continued fine weather; they fly low and are noisy in cloudy, wet or stormy weather. Against approaching storms the cranes, like various other birds of lofty flight, readily guard by ascending above the level of the clouds and the atmospheric currents which bear them.
The North American cranes are three, the whooping or great white crane (Grus Ameri raw), pure white, with wing quills black and the top of the head dull red; the little brown crane (G. Canadensis), comparatively small and dullgray in plumage; and the sandhill crane (G. Mexicana). The first of these is almost extinct, even in the far northwest, and the second is growing rare in its subarctic summer home; but the larger, grayish sandhill crane is still fairly common in the Mississippi Valley and Gulf States. The genus contains nrany foreign species, some of which are celebrated, as the graceful "demoiselle' of southern Europe and eastward; the crowned crane of northeast Africa, whose head bears a spreading tuft of feathers and bristles larger than the head itself ; the two-wattled cranes of South Africa; the companion' of Australia, and the national crane of Japan, called there whose gray, black and white plumage and stately attitudes are familiar to us in the paintings and decorative designs of Japanese artists. Many of them are of large size and handsome plumage, although none wear bright colors. It is an ancient family, represented in fossils from the Miocene period onward. Con sult Tegetmeier, 'Natural History of the Cranes' (London 1861) ; Evans, 'Birds' (New York 1900).