The messenger of spring and always just as eagerly awaited. The cranes' dance and trumpeting call are a sure sign of spring and they attract at least 150,000 visitors to Lake Hornborga during a four-week period. It is a real experience to watch the graceful cranes hopping around in their lively dance!
On their way from their winter quarters in Spain to their breeding grounds, some 10,000 cranes rest at Lake Hornborga. They usually stay for a week or two to eat, dance and rest.
The ones that are heading furthest north arrive last, as they have to wait until spring arrives at their final destination. At most, there can be more than 10,000 cranes here on any day during the Crane Dance.
Eat, dance and sleep
In the past, there were large potato fields around Lake Hornborga. In the spring, there was a plentiful supply of frozen left-over potatoes in the fields. The cranes love these sweet, sticky lumps of food!
Potato growing stopped in the 1970s and the cranes are now fed with grain that is specially laid out for them. During the peak season, more than a tonne is distributed every evening.
The cranes also eat frogs, small fish, insects and plants. So they really enjoy an all-round diet!
They prefer to spend the night standing in shallow water, so that they can feel safe from wandering predators.
At dawn, they can be seen flying to their feeding place at Naturum Trandansen, where they spend most of the day eating and dancing. This bowing, hopping and wing-flapping is a way of strengthening the ties between the pairs of birds. At dusk, they return to the lake.
Dancing cranes. Photo: Kent-Ove Hvass
When the young are able to fly, the families of cranes head south. From mid-August, there are once again thousands of cranes here at the lake. In the daytime, they look for grain in the fields round about and at night they sleep in the northern parts of the lake. Why not visit the Fäholmstornet (tower) at sunset? You can watch the cranes arriving in large flocks. It is a truly beautiful sight!
Coloured ring marking
To increase our knowledge of the life of the cranes, some of the young cranes are marked with coloured rings on their legs. The colour combination indicates which crane is which. In the past, uni-coloured rings with figures and letters were also used.
Counting the cranes
How can we count the cranes? Do we count the legs and then divide by the total two? The counts are made in the evening when the cranes fly out into the lake to sleep. This usually takes more than an hour and it is therefore relatively easy to count the small flocks that slowly fly past. The people who count the birds stand high up and have a clear view of the southern part of Lake Hornborga. The cranes have been counted since the end of the 1960s, so we have a great deal of experience. In good weather, the number of cranes can be counted very accurately. On days when the weather is less good, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to count them.
This work requires an enormous amount of patience - every evening for six weeks, the cranes are counted - and it is done on a non-profit basis by the field station at Lake Hornborga. Find out more about the statistics relating to the cranes.