Two Sandhill Crane eggs, laid by an immature female, were brooded by a broody bantam, although the Centre thought they would be infertile. The little foster mother incubated for 28 days and miraculously one of the eggs hatched. The young crane has thrived and is now many times larger than its ‘parent’.
The Pensthorpe Conservation Centre, which opened in May, features a purpose built Cranery, housing the largest collection of Cranes in the UK, including eight of the world’s 15 species. The Great Crane Project was launched last August by the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, the RSPB, the WWT and Jordans Cereals, who are working collaboratively to establish new populations of Common Crane in Britain.
There is public access to some of the facilities that are directly involved in raising birds for release as part of this programme. Pensthorpe is on the A1067, one mile from Fakenham, and is open all year round.
Sandhill Cranes breed in eastern Russia and North America and are one of the world’s more numerous species. There are records of wild birds in the UK, on Fair Isle in 1981 and on Shetland in 1991, while elsewhere in the Western Palearctic there was one in Ireland in 1905 and another was on the Faroe Islands in 1980.
Photo: Young Sandhill Crane and bantam 'mother' by Mike Powles