The Great Crane Project
Cranes were a widespread breeding bird in the UK up to 1600, and were driven to extinction through wetland drainage and hunting for food.
A small breeding population became re-established in Norfolk in the late 1970s, but this group remains vulnerable. It is considered that recolonisation of the UK from the Norfolk population is unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Successful initiatives with red kites and white-tailed eagles have shown that re-introduction projects can be very effective. The Great Crane Project partnership has looked at a number of UK wetlands for crane re-introduction, and believes that the Somerset Levels has the greatest potential. In particular, RSPB reserves provide good areas for cranes throughout the year.
The Levels are relatively undisturbed with few major hazards, and the climate is relatively mild.
- Rearing of up to 100 crane chicks from wild-laid eggs taken by agreement and under licence from nests in Germany
- Release of up to 100 juvenile cranes on the Somerset Levels
- First breeding of released cranes by 2015
- Establishment of a breeding population of around 20 pairs of cranes in Somerset by 2030
Key dates so far
- Project approved
- Partnership established
- Knowledge gained from visits to similar project in USA
- Feasibility study compiled
- Potential localities assessed and most suitable selected
- Funding for first three years secured
Work planned or underway
We aim to establish a breeding population of cranes, beginning in 2010, with first breeding by about 2015. Eggs will be taken from a breeding population in Germany, and transported to purpose-built incubators at WWT Slimbridge. Chicks will be reared by costumed humans.
Young birds will be moved to the Somerset Levels in autumn and kept in a 2 ha release enclosure, with the first release of at least 20 fledged cranes in the autumn of 2010, followed by an annual release of 20 or more birds until 2014, to give a 'founding flock' of about 100 birds.
Who to contact
Great Crane Project Manager
PartnersWildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust