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We describe winter territoriality in common cranes, Grus grus, a long-lived migrant species with long-lasting pair bonds and parental care extending throughout the winter. Cranes are territorial in the breeding season, and usually gregarious during migration and wintering. Only 2% of the families present in our study area were territorial, all other families foraged in flocks with immatures and adult pairs. Territorial pairs defended the same winter territory year after year, but only when they had offspring. They were gregarious otherwise. The average breeding success measured throughout several years was higher in territorial pairs. Winter territories were small (0.7 km2 on average), but included a higher diversity of habitats than the areas visited by gregarious birds (11.7 km2 on average). Adults of territorial families showed longer vigilance times, and lower food intake rates than did adults in flocks, which were compensated with a longer time spent foraging per day. The accumulated daily food intake did not differ between adults in flocks and in families. We suggest that winter territoriality is a facultative strategy, conditioned by parental experience and habitat availability.