Rails, Crakes, Coots, Cranes and Bustards



Rails and Crakes


Rails and Crakes are mainly medium-sized, aquatic birds. They live in marsh vegeation, reed zones and lead a rather seclusive live. One can hear them much more often than it is actually possible to watch them. Basic description: podgy to plump body, short and round wings. Long legs and large feet. Most of the species are in decline apart from Eurasian Coot and Moorhen, which are still common to Europe.




Bustards are large, heavy birds with long legs, strong feet and long broad wings, they live terrestrial. They show white patterns in wings when flying. Slow gait. Very shy. These birds live on large plains, on grassy fields and open slopes, steppen and deserts with scrubs. Once rather common, they are still in decline and limited to few places in Europe only. 



Coot sitting on dead wood in a lake


Taxonomy of Rails, Crakes, Cranes and Bustards in Western Palearctic


Below I provide the taxonomy of the species living in western Palearctic:


Order: Gruiformes

Family: Cranes Gruidae

  • Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  • Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo)
  • Common Crane (Grus grus)
  • Sarus Crane (Grus antigone)

Family:  Bustards - Otididae

  • Great Bustard (Otis tarda)
  • Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata)
  • Macqueen's Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii)
  • Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax)

Family Rails and Crakes - Rallidae

  • Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
  • Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)
  • Sora (Porzana carolina)
  • Little Crake (Porzana parva)
  • Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla)
  • (Common) Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  • (Eurasian) Coot (Fulica atra)
  • Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata)
  • Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)





Cranes are the most majestic birds on earth. I suppose that almost everyone who ever had the chance to watch these birds will arrive at this notion. 


Basically, cranes are very large, slim birds with long legs, large feet and long neck. Straight medium-sized pointed bill. Their flight silhouette is similar to storks, and over large distances similar even to geese, especially when flying in formation. When flying they extend neck and legs are outstretched, always in V-formation. Cranes like soaring in thermals and fligh at high altitudes. During migration they feed in large flocks.


Crane on a field


Taxonomy of the Crane Family (Gruidae)


Cranes are mostly distributed across the Eurasian land mass, in central and eastern Asia, the Middle East and Africa (between Egypt and the South Africa). Only three species are distributed in the western Palearctic, the majority is native to central and eastern Asia:


Order: Cranes (Gruiformes)

Family: Cranes (Gruidae)

Sub-Family: Crowned Cranes (Balearicinae)

Genus: Crowned Cranes (Balerica)


  • Grey-crowned Crane (Balerica beolorum)
  • Black-crowned Crane (Balerica pavonina)

Sub-Family: True Cranes (Gruinae)

Genus: Bugeranus

  • Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus)

Genus: Anthropoides

  • Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea)

Genus: Grus


  • Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus)
  • Demoiselle Crane (Grus virgo)
  • Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  • White-naped Crane (Grus vipio)
  • Brolga - Australian Crane (Grus rubicunda)
  • Sarus Crane (Grus antigone)
  • Black-nacked Crane (Grus nigricollis)
  • Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis)
  • Common Crane (Grus grus L.)
  • Hooded Crane (Grus monachus) 
  • Whooping Crane (Grus americana)