Our cranes fly far and wide across the West Country and beyond. Knowing where they go helps us to look after them. This is particularly important during spring, when the young birds get restless and go off exploring in search of territories to build a nest.

Ideally we’d like to know the following...

  1. Where they were
  2. How many there were
  3. Whether they had coloured marker rings on their legs, and ideally what the ring combination was. Each crane is marked with 6 colour rings, three on each leg. Every bird has black-blue-black on their left legs (this is the unique combination identifying the birds as being ringed in the UK) with a mix of three different colours on their right legs. If you report a ring combination, please tell us the ring colours in the following order – top, middle, bottom

However, any information is welcome and people are urged not to risk disturbing the birds by getting too close.

If you’re not sure whether what you’ve seen is a crane, here is our simple guide.

Telling the difference between a crane, heron and swan

*Image not to scale

Cranes stand over a metre tall and have a very large wingspan. However, they could be confused with herons, or swans and geese in flight. To tell the difference:

  • In flight, cranes stretch out their necks and trail their legs behind them. Herons pull in their necks in flight, making them appear short. Geese and swans don’t have long legs to trail behind them.
  • On the ground their long legs make them obviously not swans or geese, but they may look like herons. However, cranes are often in pairs or groups. Herons are usually seen alone, unless near a heronry. Cranes will often be seen feeding on open grassland or fields. Herons stand in or by water fishing. Adult cranes have a distinctive red patch on the back of the head and a bustle of feathers on their rump which distinguish them from herons.