The Common Crane was a breeding species in Hungary up to the end of the 19th century, the start of the water regulation programmes carried out alongside the course of the large rivers and connecting marshlands. However, Hungary is one of the most important staging-over sites for the Common Crane in Europe as outlined in the followings. Up to the end of the 1970-ies, Lake Kardoskút in South-Hungary was the most important roost site for cranes during spring and autumn migration periods.
From the beginning of the 1980-ies, its role was more and more taken by some artificial fishponds in the Hortobágy, which can be explained by the following reasons:
- desiccation of the Lake Kardoskút because of a long droughty period
- intensive hunting in the same spot
- reduced hunting activities in the Hortobágy
- fortunate, but unvoluntary synchronization of draining large fishponds (normal way of fishing) and peak time of migration.
Consequently, the peak number of staging cranes in the Hortobágy increased from 3,000 in 1983 to 65,000 to 1993 and then to 120,000 in 2015, which still continues to increase . Cranes roost in 3-15 roost sites annually depending on the amount of precipitation filling up marshes. Roost sites are occupied by 2,000-70,000 cranes from mid-September to late November with peak numbers in late October.
However, it is important to note the increase of the number of non-breeding, oversummering cranes: this number has increased from 200 in the early 80-ies to 600 to the present time. In mild winters occasional overwintering also occurs.
Recognizing the importance of the Hortobágy in the survival of the Common Crane, the Hortobágy National Park Directorate started a programme aiding this process:
- all sort of hunting is banned in and near roost sites
- even public access is limited in such areas
- it became an important consideration in marshland reconstruction programmes to provide suitable roost sites for cranes
- maize is sown in arable lands inside the NP to attract cranes to less disturbed areas
- showing the way of life of the Common Crane is an important feature in the study paths of the NP raising public awareness.
Informations : Zsolt Végvári (Hortobágy National Park)