Cairngorms Cranes

Standing at more than 1 metre tall with a 2.4 metre wingspan, the Eurasian Crane is an iconic wetland bird, known for its evocative bugling call and mesmerising courtship dance.

Cranes were once widespread across the UK, but became extinct in the late 1500s due to hunting and drainage of their wetland habitat. After a tentative return to the UK in the 1970s, population growth was slow for decades until a reintroduction project in south-west England boosted numbers.

Despite the growing crane population elsewhere, there are presently only a handful of breeding pairs in Scotland. It is possible that this isolated population could spread over time, but it would likely take many years without help.

Cairngorms Cranes seeks to reintroduce a breeding population of cranes to the Cairngorms National Park, restoring a missing piece of the Park's ecology and in doing so, supporting nature recovery across Scotland.


** Cranes are part of a complex ecological jigsaw, which over time has lost many of its pieces. Restoring these magnificent wetland birds will enhance ecological completeness and functionality.
** Establishing cranes in the Cairngorms will reinforce the small population in north-east Scotland and support their recolonisation across the country.
** Protecting and restoring wetlands for cranes will provide additional habitat for key plants, insects and birds, and help to reduce the impact of seasonal flooding.
** Returning cranes will provide a unique opportunity for community engagement, with potential for a wide range of volunteers to get involved.
** The project will also offer valuable opportunities for education around nature recovery, with potential for school visits and wider youth engagement.
** A breeding population of such visible and audible birds will drive nature tourism helping to boost the local economy.


Following a positive feasibility report in 2020, we are preparing a 12-month development project to begin in late 2021. During this period, we will consult and engage the local community, and work through The Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations to undertake the necessary assessment and planning for a successful reintroduction.

Cairngorms Cranes is led by SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, working in partnership with the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Trees for Life. We seek advisory input from a range of other stakeholders and experts, including NatureScot and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the lead partner in the Great Crane Project.