Landing Demoiselle cranes

Landing Demoiselle cranes. Demoiselle cranes coming in to land in soft early morning light. Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.

Every morning just after sunrise hundreds of these beautiful cranes flew in to feed in the grasslands. Most of the time they would land too far off for any decent pictures. On this occasion my luck finally came through and I was able to photograph them with a striking mountain backdrop in golden morning light.

About Demoiselle cranes:

The demoiselle crane (Grus virgo) is a migratory species of crane found in Central Eurasia, from the Black Sea to North East China and Mongolia. Birds from western Eurasia will spend the winter in Africa while the birds from Asia, Mongolia and China will spend the winter in the Indian subcontinent. 

The demoiselle crane is the smallest of all the crane species. The demoiselle was so named by Queen Marie Antoinette, for its delicate, maiden-like appearance. They have a loud trumpeting call, higher-pitched than the common crane.  

The demoiselle crane lives in a variety of different environments, including desert, open shrubby plains, steppes, savannahs and grasslands, typically within a few hundred metres of water. During the winter they can be found in agricultural areas of India and roost in nearby wetlands. In their African wintering grounds, they prefer thorny savannah with acacias, close wetlands and grasslands.

Demoiselle cranes are omnivorous in nature. Their diet consists of a variety of  seeds, grains, insects, lizards, worms and small vertebrates. Demoiselle cranes perform beautiful ritual courtship displays. These ‘dances’ consist of a series co-ordinated bows, runs, jumps, and tossing of plants into the air. Demoiselle’s displays are typically more energetic than those of larger species.

In Indian and Pakistani culture the demoiselle crane is known as the Koonj or Kurjan. The cranes feature prominently in the literature, poetry and folklore. In Khichan, Rajasthan, villagers feed the cranes on their migration route creating huge congregations which have become a world famous annual spectacle. 

Demoiselle cranes undertake one of the toughest migrations in the world. In late August through September, they gather in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight to their wintering grounds. During their migratory flight, demoiselles can reach altitudes of up to 8000 metres. Along their arduous journey they have to cross the Himalayan mountains to get to their wintering grounds in India. Many die from fatigue, hunger and predation from golden eagles.

You can find more about Demoiselle cranes here


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Landing Demoiselle cranes. Demoiselle cranes coming in to land in soft early morning light. Tal Chhapar, Rajasthan, India.


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