While the Sarus crane was on our ‘must see’ list during the planning and preparation phase of our trip to Keoladeo National Park, we were not really sure if it would materialize as desired. After all, our last encounter with this bird was far from satisfactory. It was in 2016 that we had the opportunity of sighting these majestic birds while driving towards the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. We had spotted them far-out into the fields. There were two adults and a juvenile and they were busy foraging for food. We ducked our way through bushes and other vegetation and had barely got within 500 meters of these birds, when we were spotted (I think). In a moment, they all took off and flew away. We did manage to get some pictures but they weren’t really impressive.
So it was a ‘saras’ experience when we finally got a chance to get up, close and personal with the Sarus crane in Keoladeo National Park. This time around, we successfully trailed these birds for over an hour, from the open and (now drying up) wetlands to a water body nearby where they had settled themselves and were foraging in the shallow waters. We set ourselves up amid the tall grass and thick bushes and ensured that we remained unseen to these least social birds among the Crane family. While our vantage point helped us to get some great shots, we also spent a good amount of time watching and admiring these fabulous birds.
The Sarus crane is claimed to be the tallest flying bird in the world. I did not really know that while taking these pictures. Standing erect with their heads held up, they did appear as tall as us. I only read up later to realise that the Sarus crane could grow as tall as 156 cms (5 feet).
Sarus cranes are known to be omnivorous birds. While they mostly feed on grains, roots, tubers and even grass, they have also been found to eat insects and small vertebrates. The pair of adult cranes here and the juvenile were busy feeding themselves and hence did not notice us…which was good because it gave us time to pick our shots.
The Indian Sarus cranes are found in northern and central India, Pakistan and Nepal. They live mainly in wetlands like the Keoladeo National Park where we had this amazing sighting. However, with loss of habitat due to the destruction of wetlands, expansion of agriculture and increase in human developments, these birds are now also found in agricultural fields that have a constant supply of water (such as a paddy field)…maybe due to their resemblance to the wetlands.
I am not sure if we were lucky to get this close to the Sarus cranes, but after having spent half a day in vicinity of these amazing birds, we were glad at that our decision to visit this wonderful national park in Bharatpur was the right one.