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UK's tallest bird has record breeding season

The UK's tallest bird, the Common Crane, has had the most successful breeding season since the 17th Century.

Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Kate Prout.

The latest survey of the bird shows it is continuing to make a comeback in the country and in East Anglia.

A record 54 pairs have produced 25 chicks this season, bringing the national population to around 180 birds, according to the RSPB.

The Common Crane at Welney, Norfolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The birds, which stand 120cm (4ft) tall, were once widespread in this country before they became extinct in the 17th Century as a result of hunting and the loss of the wetlands in which they make their home.

In 1979, a small number of wild cranes returned to the UK and established themselves in an area of the Norfolk Broads and slowly spread to other areas of eastern England with help from conservationists who worked to improve the habitat they need.

Cranes were once found throughout the UK, but disappeared from Britain over 400 years ago because of hunting for food, and the draining of their wetland breeding areas.

To see them starting to spread back across the country after all this time is just brilliant - and a true reflection of how important the UK's wetland habitats are to cranes as well as the many other species they support.

– Damon Bridge, UK Crane Working Group

In 2010, the "great crane project" by the RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust started working to create and improve existing habitat and hand-rearing birds for release.

Wild Cranes are now breeding in the Norfolk Broads and East Anglian Fens as well as other parts of the UK.

This success story highlights the importance of the UK's protected sites and nature reserves. These places offered the seclusion needed for cranes to breed successfully.

– Andrew Stanbury, RSPB Conservation Scientist