Lilford Crane

African Savanna


In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Grus grus lilfordi
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae
Genus: Grus




Height: 44 inches 42 inches
Wingspan: 70 – 79 inches 60 – 70 inches
Weight: 11.25 – 13.5 pounds 10 – 13 pounds
Maturity: 4-6 years Same

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Omnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: Yes
Gestation: Incubation is carried out by both sexes and lasts 28-31 days.
Lifespan in the Wild: up to 43 years
Lifespan in Captivity: up to at least 44 years

Geographic Range

The Lilford Crane is a subspecies of the Common Crane. Not enough data is available to distinguish specifically the Lilford Crane’s geographic range. However, the range of the Common Crane is large, spanning Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.


Status in the Wild: Least Concerned
Threats: Habitat Loss


Cranes are tall birds, and the Lilford Crane can reach up to 44 inches in height, or 3 feet and 8 inches. It is gray-bodied with flight feathers that drape over the tail when folded. The crown of the head is red, and the lore, throat, and neck are black, and the cheeks and back of the neck are white. Legs are long, featherless, and gray-black, and the feet are orange with a black stripe on the top of each digit. The beak is light, and the eyes are amber. Males and females look alike, though females are smaller than the males. Juveniles have brown-tipped feathers, no drooping flight feathers, and lacks the bright neck coloration of the adults.

Species Specifics

The Lilford Crane, G. g. lilfordi, is a subspecies of the Common Crane, G. grus. There’s only one other subspecies, the nominate subspecies (G. g. grus). The Common Crane is sometimes known as the Eurasian Crane.

Physical Characteristics

Large, strong wings help the Lilford Crane during its long migration from breeding to wintering grounds, and back again.



During breeding season, the Lilford Crane prefers wetlands, such as treeless bogs, seasonally flooded woodlands, rice paddies, agricultural fields, marshes and clearings in swampy forests. In Asia, they will nest in drier areas as long as water is readily available. During the non-breeding season, it can still be found along water, but also in meadows, savanna, holm oak woodland, mud and sandbanks along rivers and lakes, and sheltered bays.


This bird is migratory, and may travel hundreds of miles between breeding and wintering grounds. When not migrating, they may travel up to 12.5 miles for food.


The Lilford Crane is omnivorous, and will eat grass roots, tubers, crop leaves, grains, and small fruits and berries, as well as invertebrates, larval insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish and small mammals.

Ecological Web

As a predator of invertebrates and small vertebrates, the Lilford Crane keeps the population of prey animals in check.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

During the day, the Lilford Crane forages for food, and may fly up to 12.5 miles a day.


The cranes will “paint” their feathers reddish-brown using mud during the incubation period, which may provide camouflage

Social Behavior

The Lilford Crane is a gregarious bird. During migration, they fly in flocks of 10-50 to 400 birds, and during nonbreeding season gather in groups of up to 1,000 individuals. During breeding season, pairs are solitary and may have a large territory. Unpaired birds and juveniles may still flock together in small groups.

Reproductive Behavior

The Lilford Crane pair bonds for life. The breeding season is from April to June, and starts with the courtship display. The pairs will extend their wings, stretch the neck forward, and jump up and down while trumpeting. The nest location is reused year after year, and is a mound of vegetation on the ground in or near water. Both sexes will incubate during the day, nighttime incubation is carried out solely by the female.


2 eggs are laid, which will hatch after 28-31 days. Chicks leave the nest shortly after. Fledging happens between 65-70 days after hatching.



"The Common Crane, of which the Lilford Crane is a subspecies, is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and is on Appendix II of CITES. The Lilford Crane as a distinct subspecies has no listing. The European Crane Working Group does population monitoring, protection of migration and wintering habitats, and habitat management and restoration across Europe to help conserve the Common Crane. The Great Crane Project in the UK aims to reestablish populations of Common Crane that have been absent for 400 years."


The Lilford Crane has been considered a separate species by some ornithologists in the past, however current information shows there is not enough of a distinction between the Lilford Crane and the Common Crane, thus it is a subspecies of the Common Crane.

Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

Exhibit and educate.

How You Can Help

Wetlands are instrumental for the Lilford Crane and other birds, but they are also very sensitive environments. Please make sure that waste is properly sorted and disposed of, and does not end up in a wetland or any other habitat.

Fascinating Facts

Just like our clothes get worn out after a while, so do birds feathers! Every two years, the Lilford Crane goes through a complete molt of their feathers, and during this time hides in tall reeds until they can fly again.

The migration flocks fly in a V formation. In V formation, the point of the V spends the most energy and all the other birds are flying in the lee and saving energy. When the point bird gets tired, they fly to the back of the formation and a new bird is in point position.

Juvenile birds get adult plumage at 2 years of age, though they are not sexually mature until 4-6 years of age.

The Lilford Crane winters in northern Africa or southern Asia from October to March.

The Lilford Crane has a loud trumpet call that it uses in social interactions and during migration.


P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605