Coming home to roost

SANTA TERESITA, Cagayan—Visiting ornithologists offered to facilitate the homecoming of the world’s tallest flying bird, the Luzon Sarus Crane. 

The giant bird was last seen in the 1950s in the swamps of this northern Philippine town, its natural habitat, 587 kilometers north of Manila.

“Mayor Lolita Garcia has accepted the offer of an Australian ornithologist to adopt the Luzon Sarus Crane, a member of the crane sub-species, [which is] originally from Cagayan,” travel reporter Benjamin De Yro told Manila Standard.

The offer was coursed through Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzales, an ornithologist and Director of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos Museum of Natural History, during his visit on Thursday, a week before the town’s anniversary this week.

The Luzon Sarus Crane belongs to the sarus crane (Antigone antigone), a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indan Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. 

The tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 1.8m (5ft 11in), they are conspicuous and iconic species of open wetlands and forage on marshes and shallow wetlands for roots, tubers, insects, crustaceans and small vertebrate prey. 

Gonzales, who teaches wildlife and zoology at UPLB, and his team were in Cagayan to personally check on the migratory birds, particularly along the Laguna De Cagayan lake in Sitio Bangalao of Barangay Luga here.

“An unnamed ornithologist in Australia has been looking for a wetland community in the Philippines in the last three years to adopt the hatch (sic) chicks and return them where it (sic) once belong,” Gonzales was quoted saying. Abe Almirol

Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Nida dela Cruz said Gonzales claimed the bird was endemic to Cagayan.

According to experts, the bird lays two to three eggs which weight 240 grams per egg and incubated by the pairs for 35 days.

It is uncertain whether the Luzon Sarus Crane has gone extinct in the Philippines or it may have found a new habitat elsewhere. 

Garcia said she could not contain her excitement as the offer was unexpected. 

The Australian ornithologist, through Gonzales, assured that the bird would be safe in the area within Laguna de Cagayan lake as home. The lake has been declared as a protected area.

Gonzales also captured on camera 34 bird species last week. 

In 2012, the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club identified 29 species found in the area.  

A picture of a duck with a red tail was captured by Gonzales, who promised to report his other findings to the local government within the next six months.

Two years ago, residents of Buguey, Cagayan reported to Mayor Lloyd Antiporda about the presence of the Purple swamphen, a bird species last seen by the mayor as a child. 

The same bird was sighted at the Laguna de Cagayan lake in 2012. 

Topics: Luzon Sarus Crane
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