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  1. ITV Report

Cranes spent two extra hours searching for food during floods

The once-in-200-year Somerset floods forced a flock of cranes to spend more than two extra hours a day trying to find food, a study has revealed.

The flock ended up at the centre of the devastating floods on the Levels, giving the researchers a rare insight into how wildlife copes with extreme weather.

The cranes' progress was being tracked by researchers from the University of Exeter, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and RSPB when severe flooding hit the Somerset Levels in 2013.

The researchers were engaged in a three-year project to study the survival and breeding behaviour of 70 cranes.

They were released by the Great Crane Project - an attempt to reintroduce cranes to the region.

The study found that the floods forced the cranes out of their usual roosts and feeding sites, causing them to spend two extra hours a day searching for food along the margins of the flooded areas.

Andrea Soriano, a PhD student, tracked their movements to understand how they use the wetland landscape and what food resources they use.

Shallow winter flooding is normal on the Somerset Levels, but no one expected the crane flock to end up at the centre of floods so severe that they became a global news story.

They were literally pushed to the edge but they pulled through in the end.<

Extreme weather events are inherently unpredictable, so it is very rare for wildlife researchers to be in the right place at the right time, able to monitor in detail how animals cope. We've gained valuable insights here.

– Geoff Hilton, chief scientist at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.