The role of the crane in Hungarian culture is a charismatic one, especially with respects to the conservation of nature. This cultural role differentiates these birds from other domestic bird species.

Cranes have a long historical role in Hungarian folk law. According to one historical myth, when the Turkish army wanted to defeat Hungarian soldiers, they accidentally awoke 1,000 cranes. They believed that the noise made by the birds’ alerted the Hungarian army giving them time to prepare, helping them to defeat and capture Turkish soldiers.

The common or grey crane is a common nesting bird in Hortobágy. In recent decades, cranes have migrated to Hortobágy, the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe.  The Hortobágy’s steppes, fishponds and other wetlands are known as the most populous terrestrial resting place for cranes in Europe.

With the fall of autumn, the cranes arrive from Finnish and Western Russian territories in Hortobágy and stay for a short while.  Once they get some rest at Hortobágy and at the Tisza River and they continue on their journey towards North Africa, Tunisia and Sudan.

Their spectacular gathering at lakes and ponds can be witnessed at sunset and sunrise.

To pay tribute to the cranes as they fly over Hortobágy you can participate in different weekend tours organized by Hortobágy National Park and see tens of thousands of cranes take flight.

Cranes Watching by Train at Sunset or Sunrise

The first part of the program begins with a screening of the movie “Crane -Bird in the Sky” followed by a brief introduction to the cranes. After this, you can gather at Halászbárka Halastavi Reception Centre. Here, you will be taken by train to Lake Kondá to see the overnight visitation of the cranes, their arrival and departure. 

You can join a sunrise bird watching tour to see tens of thousands of cranes heading from the Lake Kondás to their feeding place after sunrise.

Cranes Safari

You can participate in an excursion to observe feeding cranes.

Meeting at the Visitors’ Centre, you will be taken by vehicle from the National Park to the Hortobágy National Park, where you can watch the crane feeding on cornfields with an expert tour leader.

Cranes Watching Tour

The first part of the program begins with a screening of the movie “Crane Bird in the Sky” followed by a brief introduction to the cranes. After that, you should follow the tour leader by your own car to the bird watching location.

You can also crane watch independently at the following locations:

  • On the paved road between Balmazújváros and Tiszacsege, by stopping at a high altitude near the 3 km mark, you can see the crane flying towards Kondás Lake at sunset or sunrise.
  • At the Lake Kondás: You have to turn at main road No. 33 near the 67th km sign towards Hortobágy Fishpond until the Halászbárka Fishpond Reception Center. Afterwards, you should walk approx. 5-km to get to the lake where you can see cranes at sunset.

Crane migration is one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles of the natural world and it takes place in Hortobágy.

Photo credit: Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay