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Cranes call through the morning mist

These graceful birds make their homes in the Hula Valley for a short but special time.

February 2, 2015 | Latest Photo Prev Next
Cranes call out through the mist in Hula ValleyCranes call out through the mist in Hula ValleyPhoto: Uzi Yachin / Flickr
February 2, 2015 | Latest Photo

In the Hula Valley, an entirely different world emerges through the foggy dawn. In the fall and winter months, the marshy locale is dominated by a large, vocal tenant: the Eurasian crane.

Resounding throughout the valley, thousands of mated pairs of cranes call out in unison in a lovely bonding ritual. 

"The birds stand in a specific posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display," the International Crane Foundation describes on its website. "The male always lifts up his wings over his back during the unison call while the female keeps her wings folded at her sides. In Eurasian Cranes, the male initiates the display and utters one call for every three female calls." 

The story of the common crane is a romantic one. Their courtship ritual involves a breathtaking dance, where they bow, jump, toss sticks, flap their wings and run to and fro. See for yourself in the video below:

Once they find their true love, they mate monogamously for life. When it comes time to nest, they both work together to build the mound and take turns incubating the eggs, camouflaging themselves with mud to ensure the nest is safe from threats.

But life is good at Hula Valley – cranes are fed by tractors that tour the grounds. With upwards of 30,000 of cranes visiting the valley during the winter, the staff had to find a solution to keep them safe, happy and out of local farm fields. Visitors can pay to take the tractor tour and see the birds up close, and the funds go directly toward feeding the cranes.

Though the cranes face the threat of habitat loss throughout Europe and central Asia, Hula Valley is a protected area that's meticulously managed – a winter home that's always welcoming.

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Related Topics: Animals