Bird of the day: Demoiselle crane (Grus virgo)

Demoiselle crane
Demoiselle crane, International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wis., Oct. 6, 2017

The demoiselle crane is not a Wisconsin bird. But I photographed this individual in Wisconsin, thanks to the International Crane Foundation having its headquarters in Baraboo, Wis. It’s the only place in the world where you can see all 15 extant crane species.

The demoiselle crane is in the same genus as one of Wisconsin’s native cranes, the whooping crane (Grus americana). But it has at least one thing in common with our more widespread native crane, the sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis): Both demoiselle and sandhill cranes can adapt themselves to agricultural lands. Sadly, whooping cranes cannot, which is one reason they’re on the brink of extinction.

Adaptability may be one of the reasons demoiselle cranes is so widespread. They have populations in Turkey and North Africa all the way to Central Asia. (Here’s a distribution map.) Demoiselle cranes are the third most populous crane after sandhill and Eurasian cranes.

However, they’re not doing equally well across their range. According to the International Crane Foundation, the demoiselle populations in Turkey and Africa are very small and close to extinction.

While visiting the International Crane Foundation headquarters in October, I was struck by the demoiselle’s petite size (they’re the smallest of the extant cranes) and the fancy white plumage on its head. Another distinctive thing about the demoiselle is the lack of  a red skin patch on its head or face—it is one of only two living crane species that lacks this feature.

Demoiselle crane
Demoiselle crane, International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wis., Oct. 6, 2017

Read more crane posts.

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