UK Common Crane population continues to flourish


Common Crane continues its comeback in the UK, with the latest breeding survey revealing there were 71 pairs across the UK in 2022.

Of these 71 pairs, up to 64 pairs bred and fledged an impressive 39 chicks, significantly adding to the UK population. Cranes are slowly spreading across the UK and 2022 witnessed the first successful breeding along the Suffolk coast. The total UK population is now believed to be in excess of 200 birds.

This year's number of pairs is the second-highest since the species returned as a breeding species in some 40 years ago (72 pairs were counted in 2021).

Some 71 pairs of Common Crane bred in the UK in 2022, with 39 chicks fledging (Walter Schulenburg).

Wild cranes were once widespread, before becoming extinct in Britain in the 16th century through hunting and the loss of their favoured wetland habitat. In 1979, a small number of wild birds returned to the UK before spreading to elsewhere in the UK, aided by the creation and improvement of their favoured habitat. The population was given a further boost when hand-reared cranes were released on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Along with the reintroduction project, the concerted conservation effort of peatland restoration and wetland protection has significantly contributed to this recovery and nature reserves have played a vital role. More than 80% of the breeding population are found on protected sites, with 21 pairs on RSPB nature reserves alone.

However, the UK Government's controversial Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, risks not only vital environmental regulations, but creates a hugely time consuming and distracting process, potentially delaying delivery of government commitments.

Many wetland sites across the UK are afforded the highest level of legal protection for nature. However, under the Retained EU Law Bill, Ministers would be given the power to weaken or to remove these laws, leaving these and many other of the very best places for nature across the UK far more vulnerable to harm.  

Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group, said: "Much of the UK's best wetland habitats are protected areas and provide sites for cranes to nest safely. The crane population is growing and our wetlands are important refuges for many other specialist wetland species.  We now need to expand and connect up larger areas of wetland across the UK. Wetlands help lock carbon away, reducing green house gas emissions, and can also help to reduce flood risk to homes and communities as well as being wonderful areas for wildlife. We must continue to protect them."    

Andrew Stanbury, RSPB Conservation Scientist, added: "The UK Government has made amibitious commitments to halt the decline in the abundance of species, and to protect 30% of our land and sea by 2030. It must now choose to strengthen, not dismantle, the laws for protected areas that are critical to the continued success of Common Crane and many other iconic wetland species."

Matthew Capper of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust commented: "2022 marked the third year that cranes have bred in Lincolnshire, reflecting the ongoing national spread of the species and the hard work by a number of conservation organisations to provide suitable sites for them. We are incredibly proud to be a playing a part in their recovery but this would be hugely undermined if the laws that protect these wetland sites were weakened or removed."