Although nowadays classed as a distinct species, the sarus of Burma differs very little from the Indian bird, being merely darker grey, with no white anywhere; it has a dingier aspect altogether, and is inclined to be smaller, while the hairs about the throat are very scanty.
This is the large crane, not only of Burma, but of the Malay Peninsula, Siam, and Cochin- China, and the older accounts, such as those of Hume, of the sarus occurring in these countries, must be taken as referring to this species; but the common sarus is the crane of Assam, judging from a skin in the Indian Museum in my time, which I was able to compare with another of the present form from Upper Burma, also in the collection.
Mynheer P. Blaauw, in his valuable monograph on the cranes, gives an interesting account of the breeding of this bird. He says : " The Eastern sarus crane has been found breeding in the months of August and September, and it probably also nests later in the year, as Davison found young birds in Burma, still unable to fly, as late as December. Wardlaw Ramsay, who records its breeding near Tonghoo, tells us that, although he did not find the eggs himself, eggs were brought to him by the Burmese. They described the nest as a pile of weeds and mud, situated generally in the midst of a swamp. On September 29, a Burmese brought him an egg and a newly hatched chick . . . the little bird was given into the charge of a common hen with doubts as to the result. She, however, took the greatest care of it, and showed great wrath if anyone attempted to touch it. On the morning of the eleventh day, however, the little creature died. When just out of the shell it devoured worms greedily."
Davison found that the young birds displayed great cunning in taking cover, but would resort to the plan traditionally ascribed to the ostrich, of hiding their heads when fairly run down in the open. These birds were destructive to the young plants in paddy nurseries, and he never saw them eating anything else. They themselves were considered a great luxury by Davison's friends in Moulmein, to whom he used to send them. It may be that it is on account of being shot for food, although the Burmese do not like them being killed, that the disposition of this race of sarus is different from that of the Western form ; it is shy and wary, needing to be approached by a bullock cart, or in the rains by a canoe. The hen has a silly habit of standing on top of her nest at daylight, and calling— a proceeding calculated to give away her family affairs. The eggs of this sarus appear to run lighter than that of the other, having only a few rufous blotches, or even being all white.
But the only thing really distinctive about the habits of this bird is that it is to some extent migratory, assembling in numerous bands and taking long and high flights. Anderson, at Ponsee, saw them passing in V-shaped flocks in the direction of the Burmese valley, flying so high as to only appear as specks. Nine such flocks, each numbering about sixty birds, assembled above the high mountain where he was camped, and commingled, with aerial evolutions, breaking up into two masses, and then into the V -formation again in smaller groups. Nothing like this is ever seen with the Indian sarus. Davison also saw bands, numbering up to sixty birds in each, arrive near Thatone in August; there is evidently a good deal to be made out about the migration of this bird, as in the case of so many tropical species wrongly believed to be stationary.