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A photo of a Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis)
Black-necked Crane

Black-necked Crane

Grus nigricollis

The Black-necked Crane, Grus nigricollis, presents a striking figure with its elegant stature. This medium-sized crane stands at 139 cm in length, with an impressive wingspan stretching to 235 cm, and weighs approximately 5.5 kg. Its plumage is primarily whitish-gray, contrasted by a black head, neck, and legs, and a distinctive red crown patch. A white patch can be observed just behind the eye, and its primaries and secondaries are also black. Both male and female cranes share a similar appearance.

Identification Tips

To identify the Black-necked Crane, look for its black head and upper neck, which stand out against the gray body. The red crown patch is another key feature, along with the white eye patch. In flight, the black tail is a distinguishing characteristic, setting it apart from the similar Common Crane, which has a gray tail.


The Black-necked Crane breeds in the high-altitude environments of the Tibetan Plateau, favoring alpine meadows, lakeside and riverine marshes, and river valleys. They adapt to agricultural landscapes, utilizing barley and wheat fields. During winter, they seek shelter in valleys or at lower altitudes.


This species is predominantly found in China, with smaller populations extending into Vietnam, Bhutan, and India. Notable wintering sites include the valleys of the Nyanga, Lhasa, and Pengbo rivers in Tibet, and the Hutoushan Reservoir, where a preservation zone has been established.


Black-necked Cranes forage in small groups, often with a sentinel on the lookout. They are known to be very wary, but can become accustomed to local people who do not disturb them. These cranes spend a significant portion of their day foraging, walking long distances between feeding spots.

Song & Calls

Their vocalizations are loud trumpeting calls, akin to those of other crane species. Within family groups, they use short, subdued nasal "kurrr" calls to maintain contact and signal food availability to juveniles.


The Black-necked Crane is believed to form enduring pair bonds, with elaborate dancing displays during the breeding season. They are territorial, especially during this time, and nest on pre-existing mud islands within large shallow wetlands. Clutch size typically consists of one or two eggs.

Similar Species

The Black-necked Crane can be confused with the Common Crane, but the latter has a gray tail and lacks the white eye patch.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet includes tubers of sedges, plant roots, earthworms, insects, invertebrates, frogs, small vertebrates, and grains such as barley, oats, and buckwheat. They have also been observed digging up and consuming potatoes, carrots, and turnips.

Conservation Status

The Black-necked Crane is currently classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Threats include habitat modification, drying of lakes, agriculture, predation by dogs and leopards, hunting, and collisions with power lines. Conservation efforts are in place in China, India, and Bhutan, with cultural and legal protections helping to safeguard this species.

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Black-necked Cranes on Birda

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Tshering Dorji
17 Feb 2024 - 10:03pm

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