Grus virgo is distinctly smaller and more delicately built than Crane, with rather fine and short bill and long drape of feathers over tail (not forming bushy cloak as in Crane). Plumage noticeably loose and silken, with long plumes on head, neck, and over tail; mainly grey, but with wholly slate-black foreneck and brilliant white spray behind eye. Juvenile duller, more ashen, with head and neck pattern little developed.

The species breeds in the Eurasian steppes from the Black Sea to northeastern China. The main wintering grounds are in India, Sudan, and other portions of eastern Africa to Chad. Demoiselle Cranes are primarily grassland birds, but are usually found within a few hundred meters of rivers, shallow lakes, depressions, or other natural wetlands. If water is available, they will inhabit even semi-deserts and true deserts. Their winter habitats in east-central Africa include acacia savannahs, grasslands, and riparian areas. In India, they feed in agricultural fields and stubble fields, and roost in shallow water or on sandbars and mudflats surrounded by water.

Migration begins in late summer. The various populations encounter diverse terrain, from sea level to Himalayan mountain passes, during migration. Several populations undertake significant sea crossings (the Red Sea and Turkey). By early autumn most Demoiselle Cranes have arrived on their wintering grounds. Birds from the Black Sea and Kalmykia populations winter primarily in cultivated fields as well as acacia savannahs, grasslands, and riparian areas in Sudan and other parts of northeastern Africa. The wintering birds in India forage in agricultural fields, stubble fields, and riverbeds, and roost in shallow water or on sandbars and mudflats surrounded by water.

Main breeding strength lies in northcentral Asia, with major winter quarters in India and Pakistan. Western elements, perhaps most or all of those breeding west of river Volga and Caspian, winter in north-east and north-central Africa. Routes used little known; may at times fly too high for detection and often at night. Seldom seen in Balkans since breeding ceased in Rumania, and only very small numbers of migrants recorded in Turkey, but hundreds pass over Cyprus in autumn, and lesser numbers again in spring. Despite this, rarely recorded in Levant; no records Sinai and seldom seen elsewhere in Egypt, though Sudan, immediately to south, a major wintering area. Regular migrant in large numbers through Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Family parties flock late July to early August, with main exodus from FSU during latter month; all but stragglers gone from breeding range by mid-September. Main passage over Cyprus occurs August and early September. Initial arrivals in African winter quarters from early September; present in strength there October-February, when return movement may begin. Main northward passage over Jiddah in second half March, and over Cyprus late March to mid-April. First arrivals south FSU towards end March, though delayed to April in cold springs, and breeding grounds reoccupied during April.

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