CRANE (kolang < Mid. Pers. kulang; Orm. and Par. kolang; Morgenstierne, pp. 266, 398; cf. Kurmanji Kurdish [ḡāz] qoleng, qoreng, etc.; Mokrī, pp. 102-03; Šīrāzī ḡāz qolang; dornā < Turk. turna; Doerfer, Elemente III, pp. 199-200; Figure 1), any of the large migratory wading birds of the family Gruidae.
Three species of cranes migrate to Persia for the winter (Hüe and Étchécopar, pp. 233-37; Scott et al., pp. 116-17). First are two subspecies of Grus grus L., the common crane (dornā; Figure 1), which averages 112 cm from beak to tail: G. g. grus (L.), which winters in southwestern Persia, and the second, G. g. lilfordi Sharpe, which winters mainly near the Caspian, in southern Persia, in southeastern Afghanistan, and in isolated colonies in Transcaucasia. The second species, Anthropoides virgo L. (the demoiselle crane, dornā-ye kūčak “small crane”), 95 cm long, is not very common in Persia and in recent years has been seen only in the Caspian region, Azerbaijan, and central Fārs (Scott et al., p. 117). Finally, Grus leucogeranus Pallas, the Siberian white crane (dornā-ye safīd “white crane”), winters from the Caspian area down to Sīstān (but cf. Scott et al., p. 111, where this species is considered “accidental” in Persia). Judging from at least one 19th-century report, cranes were probably more abundant in Persia in the past (Ẓell-al-Solṭān, pp. 347-48) than they are today. Since the 1970s they have been protected by Sāzmān-e ḥefāẓāt-e moḥīt-e zīst (Department of the environment), and hunting them (p. 6: qaṭār-kolang [?]) is prohibited.
Crane meat is licit (ḥalāl) according to Islamic law (Damīrī, II, s.v. korkī[y], p. 247), and cranes were hunted for both food and sport with specially trained falcons (qūš-e kalān-gīr “big-[game]-catching falcons”; see bāz; bāzdārǰ). Tīmūr Mīrzā, a professional falconer of the Qajar period, reported that cranes would often unite to kill the falcon and that, “if a king had five thousand cavalrymen as zealous and bold as cranes, he could conquer the world if he wished so” (pp. 122-23). M. Ṣarrām, a modern hunter, believes that hunting cranes with a shotgun is the most challenging but exhilarating hunt because of the birds’ extreme vigilance.
The kolang is mentioned in the Bundahišn as one of 110 species of birds (tr. Anklesaria, 13.22). In classical Persian poetry the crane’s ability to fly high and far; its order, discipline, and characteristic whooping sounds in flight; and its vulnerability to intrepid falcons are mentioned (Dehḵodā, s.vv. kolang, korkī). The palace built by the tyrant Żaḥḥāk in Babylon was said to have been called Kolang-dīs because it was shaped like a crane (Ḥamza, p. 32; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 41), possibly reflecting an ancient myth about cranes in Persia and Mesopotamia.
The learned Šahmardān b. Abi’l-Ḵayr, in his Nozhat-nāma-ye ʿalāʾī (ca. 490-95/1097-1102; p. 136), described the migrating pattern of cranes, which fly in large numbers and in single file. Each flock is led by one bird, which at intervals is outdistanced and replaced by the bird immediately following, so that each bird in the file “might enjoy the honor and prestige of leadership.” When the flocks rest at night, always far from people and such predators as foxes and jackals, the birds take turns keeping watch, and the watching bird stands on one leg in order not to fall asleep. Šahmardān also mentioned a medicinal use for crane gall (zahra): If inserted into the nostril, it was supposed to cure migraine (dard-e šaqīqa) or palsy (laqwa) of the face (for other medicinal uses of the crane, see Šarīf Edrīsī [d. ca. 560/1165] apud Ebn al-Bayṭār, II, pt. 4, p. 66; Zakarīyāʾ Qazvīnī, apud Damīrī, II, p. 284; Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī, text, p. 120, tr., pp. 86-87). According to Dāʾūd Anṭākī (d. 1008/1599; I, p. 236), crane meat “is digested slowly and is not nutritious.” Ẓell-al-Solṭān (pp. 347-48) considered crane meat, like that of geese, good only for making halīm, a kind of meat porridge.
Dāʾūd Anṭākī, Taḏkerat oli’l-albāb wa’l-jāmeʿ le’l-ʿajab al-ʿojāb, 2 vols., Cairo, 1308-09/1890-91.
Kamāl-al-Dīn Moḥammad Damīrī, Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān al-kobrā, 4th ed., 2 vols., Cairo, 1390/1970.
Ebn al-Bayṭār, al-Jāmeʿ le mofradāt al-adwīa wa’l-aḡḏīa, 4 pts. in 2 vols., Būlāq, 1291/1874.
Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī Qazvīnī, The Zoological Section of the Nuzhatu-l-gulūb, ed. and tr. J. Stephenson, London, 1928.
F. Hüe and R. D. Étchécopar, Les oiseaux du Proche et du Moyen Orient, Paris, 1970.
M. Mokrī, Farhang-e nāmhā-ye parandagān dar lahjahā-ye ḡarb-e Īrān (lahjahā-ye kordī) . . . , 3rd ed., Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.
G. Morgenstierne, Indo-Iranian Frontier Languages I, Oslo, 1929.
Šahmardān b. Abi’l-Ḵayr, Nozhat-nāma-ye ʿalāʾī, ed. F. Jahānpūr, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
M. Ṣarrām, “Kolang,” Šekār o ṭabīʿat 28, Esfand 1340 Š./1962, pp. 48-50.
Sāzmān-e ḥefāẓat-e moḥīt-e zīst, Ḵolāṣa-ī az moqarrarāt-e šekār o ṣayd dar sāl-e 1354, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.
D. A. Scott et al., Parandagān-e Īrān, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.
Ḥosām-al-Dawla Tīmūr Mīrzā, Bāz-nāma-ye nāṣerī (lithograph), Tehran, 1285/1869.
Masʿūd Mīrzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān, Tārīḵ-esargoḏašt-e masʿūdī . . . (lithograph), Isfahan? 1325/1907?; repr. Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
Originally Published: December 15, 1993
Last Updated: November 2, 2011
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Vol .VI, Fasc. 4, p. 398