Train and set free: a Siberian Crane chick hatched at the Moscow Zoo

July 8
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A Siberian Crane chick was born at the Center for the Reproduction of Rare Animal Species of the Moscow Zoo, which is located near Volokolamsk. This species of crane is endangered; it is included in the International Red Data Book and the Red Data Book of Russia. Siberian Cranes are endemic to the northern regions of our country, that is, they live in certain places. According to zoologists, there are only about three thousand individuals in the wild.

“The number of Siberian Cranes - they are also called white cranes - has been steadily decreasing from year to year, approaching a critical level. In the future, the species may disappear from the face of the earth. Therefore, zoos and nurseries around the world are working to create a reserve population and release chicks into the wild. The Moscow Zoo also takes part in the conservation of the species. Ornithologists have managed to achieve regular breeding of these unique birds; many of our graduates leave for other zoos or reserves. The baby hatched this summer will be prepared for reintroduction into its natural habitat, where it will be able to help restore the wild Siberian Crane livestock,” Svetlana Akulova, General Director of the Moscow Zoo said.

Within a few hours after birth, the chick stood on fragile legs. Specialists conducted an initial examination and found out that he was healthy. Yet, the chick does not look like its lofty parents: it is covered with brownish-red down. Closer to the age of six months, the down will change to light brown plumage, and the Siberian Crane will cover with snow-white feathers only in the third year of life.

The little crane grows rapidly and gets stronger, it eats food for adults. The Siberian Cranes' diet includes smelt and herring, insect larvae and locusts, chicken eggs, wheat germ, grated carrots and special compound feed.

In total, the Center for the reproduction of rare species of animals is home to five Siberian Cranes, including the chick. They occupy a spacious aviary, on the territory of which there is a field. If desired, the birds can hide in the thickets.

In the wild, there are two populations of Siberian Cranes: the eastern crane nests in the north of Yakutia, the western one - in the Arkhangelsk Region, the Komi Republic and the Yamalo-Nenets Okrug. The eastern one, or Yakut, numbers approximately 2,900–3,000 individuals, the western (also called Ob’ population) - only about two dozen birds. The number of birds listed in the Red Data Book is declining.

In Yakutia, Siberian Cranes inhabit the shores of reservoirs in the lowland tundra, in the Ob’ region they live in swamps surrounded by forest. White cranes are migratory birds. In winter, the eastern population migrates to China, to the Yangtze River valley, and the western one to India and northern Iran. In May, Siberian Cranes return to the north of Russia and begin to build their nests. Male and female take turns incubating eggs. Most often, two chicks are born. Usually only one survives.

Press Service of the Moscow Zoo

These are large birds. Their height can reach one and a half meters; the wingspan is more than two meters. Weight ranges from six to 10 kilograms. The cranes have white plumage; the tips of the wings are black. The long legs and face are bare, covered with red skin. The beak is long and sharp.

Siberian Cranes eat both plant and animal food. They eat small rodents, frogs and insects. They are able to deftly snatch fish out of the water with a sharp beak. And yet, the basis of their diet is grass growing in shallow water. Unlike other cranes, Siberian Cranes do not seek food on agricultural crops, they are rather secretive and avoid humans, and are considered long-livers. Even in the harsh northern conditions, they sometimes live up to 70 years old, in captivity they can step over the 80-year mark.

The protection of Siberian Cranes was strengthened in the 70s of the last century. Nurseries engaged in the cultivation of rare birds appeared in the USSR, the USA, Belgium and China. Experts prepare graduates for survival in the harsh northern conditions and teach them how to search for food on their own. Since the mid-1990s, more than 100 chicks have been released into the wild, but about 70 percent of them have died.

The most difficult thing is to acquaint small cranes with the technique of long-distance flight (up to seven thousand kilometers) and help them master the migration routes. For this, ornithologists have come up with a special technique: they lead the chicks along the route of future migration with the help of a motorized hang-glider controlled by a human. Chicks follow the person, perceiving him as the leader of the flock. After training, it is much easier for birds to make long flights. In Russia, this technique is used within the Flight of Hope program.

Recently, the Center for the Reproduction of Rare Animal Species of the Moscow Zoo also received a new addition in the family of forest reindeer. This subspecies is listed in the International Red Data Book. According to zoologists, its wild population numbers only about five thousand individuals. The young reindeers born in the center near Volokolamsk are growing fast and getting stronger, soon they will start walking around their large enclosure with the herd. And in June, the cubs of rare gazelles were born there. These are swift, elegant gazelles, whose images often decorated coins and postage stamps.


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