The lost cranes of the island of Lampedusa (Italy)

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Marco Masseti *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Marco Masseti |


The abundance of migratory birds on Lampedusa (Sicilian Channel, Italy) has been documented since the fifteenth century, but during the nineteenth century, this small island was particularly noted for the regular presence of cranes. Official reports documented the occurrence of these birds from as far back as the eighteenth century, recording the period of their presence on Lampedusa (every year between May and August), their regular nesting, and even the crop plants they fed on, a habit often resulting in a major damage for to the island’s subsistence farming. In spite of all this documentary information, scholars did not, however, succeeded in assigning them to a well-defined species and while several authors described them as Common cranes, Grus grus, others identified them as Demoiselle Cranes, Anthropoides virgo, or even as Black crowned Cranes, Balearica pavonina. The paper is an attempt to investigate this taxonomic and zoogeographic puzzle, while inclining towards an identification of the crane in question in the morphological and ecological characters of the Demoiselle Cranes.

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