The Iberian Demoiselle

Wedged between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Pyrenees the Iberian Peninsula presents a unique landscape as African and European climates meet, one where wild date and fan palms meet oaks and pines.  Although much of the natural environment has suffered under the hand of human civilization and our agricultural exploits, large stretches of “pristine” vegetation still remain in areas like Extremadura – an area that is known as an avian refuge.  It has long been held in high esteem among avid birders from across Europe and even further afield for its rich abundance and diversity almost unrivaled anywhere else on the European continent.  With large populations of cinereous vultures, griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, Spanish imperial eagles, black storks and common crane it really is a birders paradise.

The common cranes (Grus grus) wintering on the oak dehesa woodlands are a special feature of the Extremadura landscape, but they weren’t always the only crane species to inhabit this part of Spain. Once these woodlands and grasslands of the Spanish steppe served as the solitary European breeding ground for the delicate Demoiselle crane (Anthropoides virgo) – a species which has since disappeared from western Europe due to agricultural activity, hunting and habitat exploitation.

Sites like this large flocks of Demoiselle cranes gathering at wetlands in Jodhpur, India, used to be a common site along the countryside of Extremadura, Spain.

         Will future reintroduction programs see the return of this iconic species to the Spanish landscape?

Please feel free to comment your opinion!

Marcel van der Merwe II

Cape Town | South Africa


2 thoughts on “The Iberian Demoiselle

  1. Beautiful bird indeed, I was not aware that they used to exist in Iberia. Do you know to where these western european populations used to migrate for winter time, western Africa perhaps?
    Thank you for sharing this information 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not sure about the migration patterns of the Iberian birds, but I know they also occurred in Morocco and Tunisia. I think Spain was part of their wintering range. Demoiselle cranes were known to breed in Extremadura and in the vicinity of Sevilla in Andalucía.


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