Cranes leaving Estonia for southern climes, via three different routes

Common cranes in Estonia.
Common cranes in Estonia. Source: RL

Early fall in Estonia brings with it the chance to see one of the most spectacular shows from the natural world in the form of the annual migration southwards of the country's summertime population of cranes.

The birds will be taking their offspring hatched over the summer in Estonia, for their first ever big flight.

Cranes, more specifically the common crane (Grus grus) had started assembling for the off last month, ornithologist Tarvo Valker told "Aktuaalne kaamera," adding that a larger migration from Finland began last week – these birds have no need to stop off in Estonia on the way, due in part to favorable winds.

For those that wish to observe the exodus, Valker listed the "Matsalu national park (Rahvuspark), either in Põgari-Sassi or Rannajõe; similarly, in Lahemaa (national park), on the north coast, where it is possible to view quite large flocks of cranes."

There are three migration routes from Estonia onward – to Western Europe, where the birds winter in France and Spain, via Central Europe, where they end up in Northern Italy among other places, and the eastern route, where cranes born in Estonia can end up as far afield as Ethiopia, Valker went on.

AK reported that the next week to 10 days are prime crane migration viewing time, when sunset (a little before 7.30 p.m. in Northern Estonia right now – ed.) is the best time of day as birds which have been feeding in the fields make for their roosting areas.

Once heard never forgotten, cranes are particularly large birds which can be found around wetlands even quite close to Tallinn. They can be over a meter tall and have a wingspan of more than double that. Unlike heron, which usually fly alone, cranes are gregarious and generally stick to pairs, often congregating in large numbers even well before migration time and communicating via their distinctive call.

Unlike the more familiar white storks, a much smaller summer visitor, cranes do not relish the presence of humans and are easily startled despite their size. Nonetheless, arable land is a common area to see the omnivorous birds scouring for food.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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