of cranes in Hortobágy
migration of cranes (Grus grus) is a memorable late autumn
experience. The number of cranes passing over the Hortobágy
at the end of October can be as high as 85000.
This bird also has a special role in Hungarian culture and
traditions, therefore it is especially important to preserve
their feeding and resting sites where they can gather strength
during their migration. Cranes do not tolerate disturbance,
and need sufficient feeding grounds as well.
During the day the birds feed in the cultivated lands, picking
up mainly corn seeds, but also catch small rodents and amphibians.
Around noon they drink, then take a short rest near to the
drinking site, in the afternoon continue feeding, then at
sunset gather on the fishponds for the night - 20-30000 at
the same time.
arrive from North Europe. Their most important breeding sites
are in Sweden and Russia, but can be found in other Baltic
states, in Poland and in Germany as well. Cranes once used
to nest in Central Europe, but due to the deterioration of
their preferred breeding sites, such as large and undisturbed
wetlands, the breeding population disappeared from the region.
Cranes most probably nested also in Hungary until the middle
of the 19th century.
have been appreciated birds of Hungarian culture. Written
history from the 16th century proves that cranes lived in
households. The chicks were taken home and raised, and then
kept for decoration and as sentinels: they are watchful guides
and their loud cries were useful. Tradition says that the
fortresses in the Hungarian Plain kept groups of cranes at
the top of the walls, so that they notice enemies even in
the darkness of the night. Cranes were sold on the markets,
and their meat was eaten. The bones of the bird were used
for carving different tools and instruments. The long feathers
of the cranes were worn on the hats of shepherds with great
they can be best observed during autumn migration. In Europe
cranes use a western and an eastern route. The cranes migrating
on the eastern route have a rest in Estonia and Hungary (the
western route leads to Spain and Portugal). Even 70-80000
cranes can gather in the Hortobágy region from October, then
in the first week of November some groups start to move on
to the southern part of the Hungarian Plain. Depending on
the weather, they stay in Hungary for about 2 months, preparing
themselves for the rest of their migration route to their
wintering sites in Nothern Africa, Tunisia and Sudan. (In
the southern part of the Hungarian Plain smaller flocks remain
also for the winter. About 700-1000 individuals spend the
entire summer here.)
their preservation undisturbed feeding and resting sites must
be ensured. Hunting can be the most important factor that
makes cranes leave a certain resting place, therefore hunting
activities in the region during crane migration should be
totally banned. For their feeding, cranes need rather large
fields with corn or fresh sowing, and also some undisturbed
channels, fishponds or flooded areas for their midday drinking
session. Farmers should be informed and supported in maintaining
the land-use patterns and structures that allow the cranes
to peacefully fill up their reserves in Hungary for the long
way ahead of them before reaching the wintering sites.