Sources : Crane

Aristotle [ca. 350 BCE] (De animalibus Book 8, 14.2; 14.5): [Book 8, 14.2] [Cranes] travel from Scythia to the marshes in the higher parts of Egypt, from which the Nile originates. This is the place where the Pygmies dwell; and this is no fable, for there is really, as it is said, a race of dwarfs, both men and horses, which lead the life of troglodites. [Book 8, 14.5] The crane migrates from one extremity of the earth to the other, and they fly against the wind. As for the story about the stone, it is a fiction, for they say that they carry a stone as ballast, which is useful as a touchstone for gold, after they have vomited it up. - [Cresswell translation, 1887]

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 7, verse 975-976): "Cranes who yearly change / The frosts of Thracia for the banks of Nile...". - [Ridley, 1919 translation]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 30; 10, 42): [Book 10, 30] The race of Pygmies have a cessation of hostilities on the departure of the cranes that, as we have said, carry on war with them. It is a vast distance, if one calculates it, over which they come from the eastern sea. They agree together when to start, and they fly high so as to see their route in front of them; they choose a leader to follow, and have some of their number stationed in turns at the end of the line to shout orders and keep the flock together with their cries. At night time they have sentries who hold a stone in their claws, which if drowsiness makes them drop it falls and convicts them of slackness, while the rest sleep with their head tucked under their wing, standing on either foot by turns; but the leader keeps a lookout with neck erect and gives warning. (The same birds when tamed are fond of play, and execute certain circles in a graceful swoop, even one bird at a time). It is certain that when they are going to fly across the Black Sea they first of all make for the straits between the two promontories of Ramsbrow and Carambis, and proceed to ballast themselves with sand; and that when they have crossed the middle of the sea they throw away the pebbles out of their claws and, when they have reached the mainland, the sand out of their throats as well. Cornelius Nepos, who died in the principate of the late lamented Augustus, when he wrote that the practice of fattening thrushes was introduced a little before his time, added that storks were more in favor than cranes, although the latter bird is now one of those most in request, whereas nobody will touch the former. [Book 10, 42 ] ...which among the larger class of birds only cranes do, for these grow black in old age. - [Rackham translation]

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 1, 44; 2, 1; 3, 13): [Book 1, 44] The screaming of cranes brings on showers, so they say, while their brain possesses some kind of spell that leads women to grant sexual favors - if those who first observed the fact are sufficient guarantee. [Book 2, 1] When cranes are about to leave their Thracian haunts and the frosts of Thrace, they collect on the river Hebrus, and when each one has swallowed a stone by way of food and as ballast against the onslaught of winds, they prepare to emigrate and to set out for the Nile, longing for the warmth and for the food that is to be had there during the winter. And just when they are on the point of rising and moving off, the oldest crane goes round the entire flock thrice and then falls to the ground and breathes his last. So the others bury the dead body on the spot and fly straight to Egypt, traversing the widest seas on outstretched wing, never landing, never pausing to rest. And they fall in with the Egyptians as they are sowing their fields, and in the ploughlands they find, so to speak, a generous table, and though uninvited partake of the Egyptians' hospitality. [Book 3, 13] Resting their bills upon each other's tail-feathers they form in a sense a continuous chain of flight, and sweeten their labor as they repose gently one upon another. And in some distant land when they light upon some water-spring they rest for the night and sleep, while three or four mount guard for all the others; and in order to avoid falling asleep during their watch they stand on one leg, but with the other held up they clutch a stone firmly and securely in their claws. Their object is that, if they should inadvertently drop off to sleep, the stone should fall and wake them with the sound. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 10.12-16): [Chapter 10.12] It is indeed obvious that in winter cranes congregate in great numbers in this northern region. It will not grieve me to recall how they direct their journeys. They go forward like a military company under a standard. Lest the strength of the breeze blow them off course, they consume sand, and ballast themselves with small stones to a moderate weight. [Chapter 10.13] Then they hasten aloft, so they can mark the lands they are making for, as if from a tall watchtower. A bird confident of the course goes in front of the flock. She castigates idleness of flight with her voice, which gathers the troop together. When she has grown hoarse, another takes her place. [Chapter 10.14] Preparing to cross Pontus, they aim for the narrowest passage. This (it is easy to discern by looking) is between Taurica and Paphlagonia — that is, between Carambis and Criumetopon. When they know themselves to have passed the middle of the channel, their feet drop the bundles of small stones. [Chapter 10.15] Sailors report that from this circumstance they are often rained upon with stony showers. The cranes do not bring up the sand again before they are settled as securely as possible. The birds are of one mind in caring for those who become weary; indeed, if some falter, they all flock together and continuously bear up the exhausted ones until they recover their strength by resting. They are not less zealous on land. [Chapter 10.16] They divide the night watches so that at any one time ten of them are wakeful. The watchers clasp little weights in their claws, which if by chance are let fall, convict them of slackness. When they perceive something to take precautions against, they make a clamor. Their color reveals their age: they grow dark with old age. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Saint Ambrose [4th century CE] (Hexameron, Book 5, chapter 15.50-51): How well do the cranes carry out their guard duty at night without orders and without compulsion! You may note the watchers at their appointed places. Again, while the rest of the flock is at rest, some make the rounds and make certain that no attack is attempted from any quarter. With unabated vigilance they render complete protection. When the watcher has completed his period for guard duty, he prepares for sleep, after arousing with a warning cry the sleeper who is destined to take his place as the next sentry. The latter willingly accepts his lot. He does not act as is the custom with us when, under such circumstances, we are loath to give up our sleep. Rather, he rises eagerly from his resting place, performs his duty, and repays with equal care and courtesy the favors that he has received. Hence there are no deserters, because their loyalty is a natural one. Hence their guard duty furnishes real protection, because their wills are free. They also follow this procedure when in flight. In this way they alleviate fatigue as they perform in turn the function of leadership. At a certain prescribed time one takes a position ahead of the rest, in advance of the banners, so to speak. Later, he turns back and yields to a successor the task of leading the flock. - [Savage translation, 1961]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:14-15): [Book 12, 7.14] Cranes (grus) took their name from their particular call, for they whoop with such a sound. When they fly, they follow a leader in formation like a letter [Greek lambda, ^]. They seek the heights, from which they can more easily see which lands to make for. [Book 12, 7.15] The one leading the flock chides with its voice, but, when it begins to grow hoarse, another crane takes its place. At night they divide up the watches, and alternate their vigils; they hold stones in their extended claws to let it be known if they fall asleep – the noise indicates the need to be on the alert. Their color reveals their age, for they turn black as they grow old. - [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]

Gerald of Wales [c. 1146 – c. 1223] (Topographia Hibernica, chapter 10): Cranes assemble in such numbers, that a hundred, or about that number, are often seen in one flock. By natural instinct they keep watch in turns at night for their common safety, perched on one foot, and holding a stone in the other featherless claw, that if they should fall asleep, the fall of the stone may rouse them to renew their watch. These birds are emblems of the bishops of the church, whose office it is to keep watch over their flock, not knowing at what hour the thief will come. ... This bird also gives notice of danger by its cries. In like manner the pastors of the church drive the wolves from the fold by sounding the alarm from the holy oracles. ... The liver of this bird is also of such a fiery heat, that, when by any chance it swallows iron, its stomach digests it. So bowels inflamed with the fire of charity subdue and soften iron hearts which were before indurate. - [Forester translation, 1863, chapter 10]

Thomas of Cantimpré [circa 1200-1272 CE] (Liber de natura rerum, Birds 5.55): Cranes are birds that fly in an orderly line. Pliny and Solinus, Jacobus, Ambrose and Isidore describe the crane. Whenever they conduct their expeditions, they go under a certain military banner. For he who presides over every column chastises the others with his voice, that they may not abandon order; then another one appointed to the same office succeeds it. At night they divide the watch among themselves, so that each of them may sleep part of the time. Those who watch raise a leg from the ground with their feet holding pebbles, which make a noise when they fall asleep, and they wake up. They sleep with their heads under a folded wing, standing with their heads alternating with their feet. The leader raises its neck and looks forward. But when they have to fly farther, they strive higher in the air, in order to see the higher points of the lands they seek. As the Experimentator says, if the cranes see rain-clouds, they cry out and shout, urging the leader to take swifter flight. When they have descended to the ground to eat, the leader watches with a high head, and this is for the protection of all, but the rest graze securely. If the leader sees a man, it cries out, so that it may warn the unwary. They have heavier meat than the rest of the birds, so when a crane is killed it must be kept for one day in summer and two in winter, before it is eaten, that is to say, so that the meat becomes more digestible and tender. The cranes are always the first to move at the extremity of the land, and always fly against the wind. They eat sand before crossing the water; sometimes they have a stone in their stomach, which they vomit. Of this stone those who have experienced it have said that the stone itself turns into gold by means of fire. And it is possible, because it is probable that there are certain stones in many places, which are called auricalcum, from which the best gold is made. And these stones, or similar ones, the cranes lift from the ground and swallow and regurgitate when they have returned to us. They also load themselves with pebbles to a moderate weight, so that they do not tire themselves too much during the flight. Therefore they seek a narrow crossing from a height, and indeed they can detect with their eyes the distance of the journey which they have to complete. Therefore, when they know that they have come to the middle of the channel, they free their feet from a load of stones. The ships of sailors are often damaged from that accidental shower of stones. They do not remove the sands until they have landed. They are all concerned for the tired birds, so much so that if one weakens, the others generally help and lift up the tired one, until it recovers its strength by resting. Color betrays age; for they turn black with old age. The Pygmy race is said to fight with these, and they have clothes [from feathers?] when the cranes withdraw. A female crane stands near the sea when she is engaged in copulation. Aristotle says of the Pygmies in his book on the natures of animals, saying this: To the northern region beyond Egypt, where the Nile runs, cranes arrive in the winter time and meet the Pygmies, dwarf people, and fight with them. But Aristotle himself says that it is certainly not a fable, but truth is found in the matter, that a certain race of small men and small horses likewise remain in mountainous regions. And the cranes sometimes fly to the ends of the earth, in order to find a land suitable for their needs; and they always fly against the wind. It is said that flying after the winter from the mountains of the East, they swallow golden sands and aurilime stone, and afterwards regurgitate them in overseas regions. The fighting ability of the cranes is so strong and tenacious that it cannot be caught by a man's hand. - [Badke translation/paraphrase]

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (Liber de proprietatibus rerum, Book12.15): The crane is a bird of great wings and strong flight, and flieth high into the air to see the countries towards the which he will draw. And is a bird that loveth birds of his own kind, and they living in company together have a king among them and fly in order. And the leader of the company compelleth the company to fly aright, crying as it were blaming with his voice. And if it hap that he wax hoarse, then another crane cometh after him, and taketh the same office. And after they fall to the earth crying, for to rest, and when they sit on the ground, to keep and save them, they ordain watches that they may rest the more surely, and the wakers stand upon one foot, and each of them holdeth a little stone in the other foot, high from the earth, that they may be waked by falling of the stone, if it hap that they sleep. - [Steele]