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< > Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)

Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Juvenile Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Close-up og the eye of a Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Juvenile Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Head of a juvenile Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane preen threat. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian cranes unison calling. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane chick drinking. Click here for full-page view with caption. Siberian crane drinking. Click here for full-page view with caption. Primary wing feathers emerging.Click here for full-page view with caption Siberian crane central range map. Click here for full-page view with caption. crane eastern range map. Click here for full-page view with caption.










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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • The white crane (B474)
  • Asiatic white crane (B474)
  • de Witte Aziatische Kraanvogel (Dutch) (B474)
  • edr Weisse indische Kranich (German) (B474)
  • la Grue blanche d'Asie (French) (B474, W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Shiratsuru (Japanese) (B474)
  • Sodeguro (Japanese) (B474)
  • Anthropoides leucogeranus (B474, B479.w16)
  • Ardea gigantea (B474)
  • Grus gigantea (B474)
  • Antigone leucogeranus (B474)
  • Leucogeranus giganteus (B474)
  • Grus polii (B474)
  • Sarcogeranus leucogeranus (B474)
  • Grue de Sibérie (French) (B107.w8)
  • Schneekranich (German) (B107.w8)
  • Gruella Siberiana (Spanish) (B107.w8)
  • Great white crane (B107.w8)
  • Siberian white crane (B107.w8)
  • Grue blanche (French) (B104)
  • Grue de Sibérie (F) (W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Leucogéranne (F) (W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Grulla Blanca Asiática (S) (W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Grulla Siberiana (S) (W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Siberische Witte Krannvogel (Dutch) (B104)
  • Schneekranisch (German) (B104)
  • Gruella blanca (Spanish) (B104)
  • Snötrana (Swedish) (B104)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

Major References

B97, B104, B107.w8, B475, B480.10.w10, B481.II.5.w13, P92.1.w3, W2.Dec06.w1

Aviculture references:
B115.2.w7, B115.3.w2, B479.w16, B479.w16, , D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1, P1.1999.w3, P92.1.w3


(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General Information:
  • Cranes are tall birds with a long beak and sharp claws, and can be aggressive. Their ability to injure humans must be considered in enclosure design and handling. (B115.2.w7, B197.9.w9)
  • Most cranes are wetland species, a few being primarily grassland species. They should be given the opportunity to wade and bathe, and to forage and/or dig for food in natural vegetation and soft soil substrates.
  • Good nutrition, with adequate protein and micronutrient levels, is essential for the general health of the cranes and for breeding.
  • Cranes form monogamous pairs and can be extremely territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Therefore it is important to house each pair of adult cranes in a separate enclosure from other cranes, and preferably not directly adjacent to another pair of cranes, particularly of the same species. Visual barriers should be put in place between crane enclosures before the breeding season
  • Care is required when introducing intended mates to each other, to avoid injury to one or both birds; formation of a good pair bond can take time.
  • Cranes are unlikely to breed if they feel insecure, such as in mixed species enclosures with hoofstock, or if there is no part of their enclosure which is free from daily human disturbance.
  • If possible, rotational pens should be provided, such that a pen can be left empty in alternate years, to reduce soil burdens of parasites and pathogenic microorganisms which may otherwise build up to problematic levels; this is particularly important if chicks are to be parent-reared, to avoid overwhelming exposure to e.g. gapeworm very early.

(B115.2.w7, D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1)

Species-specific information:

  • Cold-hardy. (B97)
    • Quite cold-hardy, but need time to adapt to cold, damp conditions. (B479.w16)
  • Heat-sensitive; shade and access to water are important in the heat of the summer. (B479.w16)
  • Very aquatic. Expert fishers; they will stand and dart their bills to catch fish in a small pond. (B479.w16)
    • Commonly develop foot problems if maintained on hard surfaces. (B479.w16)
    • Providing soft substrate (ponds with mud bottoms) for at least part of the year may be beneficial to reduce the development of Hock Osteoarthritis in Siberian Cranes. (P1.1999.w3)
  • Aggressive; can be difficult to handle due to the sharp bill and hooked claws. (B479.w16)
  • Will eat ducklings; (B97) therefore should not be housed with breeding waterfowl.
  • Normally breed at very high latitudes. To simulate this, bright lights can be used: at the International Crane Foundation, baraboo, Wisconsin, USA, from the 1st of March automatically-controlled floodlights are used to provide 16 hours of daylight. These come on in the early morning, giving an artificial dawn but a natural sunset. Each week the photoperiod is extended by a week until a day length of 23 hours is reached after seven weeks; this is then maintained until late April/early May, when egg laying has ceased. Eggs laid starting late March to mid April, and continuing for up to 55 days if eggs removed; as many as 9-11 eggs laid in one year. If each egg is removed after laying (rather than waiting until a clutch of two eggs has been produced) then the length of time between eggs generally increases and is often longest between the penultimate and last egg. (P92.1.w3)
  • The onset of hot weather in summer may terminate semen production in this species. (B115.3.w2)
  • In pairs where there are problems with aggression, the birds can be kept in a divided pen and artificial insemiation used for egg fertilisation. This can also be used in pairs which are kept together but showing poor fertility/not copulating. (P92.1.w3)
  • Siberian cranes "paint" the sides of the base of the neck, and nearby body feathers with mud in the period before semen production and egg laying; this paining can be used as a guide that the cranes are coming into breeding condition. (P92.1.w3)
  • Brooding under cranes more successful than artificial incubation. (P92.1.w3)
  • Have been conventionally hand-reared and have been isolation-reared using a crane head puppet and in the early stages a mirror so the single chick sees its own reflection as well as chicks in adjacent pens. (P92.1.w3)
  • Have been foster reared by Grus japonensis - Red-crowned crane. (V.w5)
  • Highest (82.4%) egg fertility was seen when females were inseminated with high-quality semen twice within 10 days before oviposition with one of the inseminations being within five days of oviposition. (P92.1.w3)
  • Too high a growth rate 4-30 days when hand-reared has been associated with leg developmental problems. (P92.1.w3)
Management Techniques


Bird Husbandry and Management

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

  • Males are generally slightly larger than females. (B107.w8)
  • 140 cm. (B107.w8, B475)
  • 120-140 cm; body 60-65 cm. Males slightly larger than females. (B104)
  • Wingspan 210-230 cm. (B107.w8); 230-260 cm; maximum measured 690 cm. (B104)
Adult weight General 4,900-8,620 g. (B107.w8) Maximum recorded about 10 kg in USSR. (B104)
Male Summer 5,100-6,950; winter 7,260-8,620. (B104)
Female Summer 4,900-5,700; winter 5,670-7,260. (B104)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate Cranes general: Crane chicks grow rapidly. Growth of the legs is particularly rapid in the first six weeks, with the wings then developing rapidly after this. (B107.w8)

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Adult Bill Male
  • Red. (B104)
  • Brick-red or brown-red; tip and nasal groove slightly paler. (B104)
  • Yellowish-brown. (B97)
Variations (If present) Female: Bill less bright red than in male. (B104)
Eyes (Iris) Male
Variations (If present)
  • Can be pink-tinged, red, or ivory. (B104)
Juvenile Bill
  • Red, but duller than in the adult. (B104)
  • Red-tinged dark brown; tip pale pink or red; second year summer, horn-brown (B104)
Eyes (Iris)
  • Chicks have ice-blue eggs; this later changes to yellow as in the adult. (P92.1.w3)
  • "Hazel to pale yellow". (B104) Pale yellow. (B97)
  • Second year summer, "light sulphur yellow". (B104)

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Adult Male
  • Reddish. (B475) Reddish-pink. (B97)
  • Red; pale-red, pink-red or dull red. (B104)
  • Claws black. (B104)
  • Long, slender, tibia has lower 120-145 mm bare. Between the outer and middle toes is a small web. (B107.w8)
Variations (If present) Brighter red when breeding. (B104)
  • Red, but duller than in the adult. (B104)
  • Dark horn with red tinge, becoming pink-red but with front of tarsus and tibia brown-tinged and tops of toes brown-tinged. Second year summer pink-brown. (B104)

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Adult Male
  • White. (B475)
  • White, with primaries and primary coverts black. (B104)
  • Hindcrown and nape feathers are slightly elongated, and pointed. (B104)
  • Face is red bare skin from the bill to behind the eyes. (B107.w8, B475) Red front of face and forecrown. (B104)
    • "Forehead, central crown, lores, narrow strip below lores bare, except for scattered short and thin bristles." (B104)
  • Moults post-breeding; flight feathers lost on breeding ground, simultaneous, but not every year. (B104)
Variations (If present)
There may be rusty staining of the neck. (B104)
  • Buff or cinnamon, and with a feathered, not bare, mask. (B107.w8, B475)
  • Plumage  dull white tinged with buff and spotted with brown; head fully feathered; neck, mantle, leading edge of inner wing red-brown; secondaries, tertials and long scapulars visible tinged buff-grey in flight. (B104)
    • Adult plumage gained and head feathers lost by third autumn. (B104)
  • Second year summer, bare face is pale red. (B104)

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Identification Notes

Cranes general: 
  • "Cranes are large to very large birds with long necks and legs, streamlined bodies and long, rounded wings." (B107.w8)
  • Compared to the day-herons, cranes have longer legs and hold their necks straighter. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to egrets, the body is proportionately larger. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to storks, the legs are longer, bodies lighter and bills smaller. (B107.w8)
  • In flight, cranes have their necks straight forwards and their long legs trailing behind, forming a straight line from the bill; in very cold weather the legs may be pulled in against the body. (B107.w8)
  • Siberian cranes, and Grus carunculatus - Wattled crane, have bare red skin on the front of the face, extending backwards to just behind the eyes, and down to the nares of the upper mandible. In the Siberian crane, this area can be extended distally over the head during displays. (B107.w8)

Siberian crane:

  • Large, white crane, totally white except for the red mask, reddish legs and yellow iris. (B475)
  • White crane, distinguished from the other white cranes, Grus americanus - Whooping crane and Grus japonensis - Red-crowned crane, by the cap being entirely white and by the red mask from the bill to behind the eyes. (B107.w8)
  • Up to 10% larger than Grus grus - Common crane. ( B104)
  • Majestic white crane with a "raw-looking" face; the black outer wing is prominent during flight, but when standing the black primaries and coverts are covered by the secondaries and tertails, and the crane appears totally white. There may be rusty staining on the neck. The front of the face and the forecrown are bare and red. (B104)
  • "Unmistakable" identification. (B104)
    • Ciconia ciconia White stork is also white, but has a fully white head (no area of red sin) and all the flight feathers are black. (B104)
    • Grus japonensis - Red-crowned crane has a dark neck, secondaries black (not primaries) and grey-black legs. (B104)


  • Musical, flute-like. (B107.w8, B475)
    • Rather different from those of the other cranes. (B107.w8)
  • Softer and more musical than other cranes, with "ahooya", "toya" or "koonk-koonk" in flight, while the alarm call is described as a subdued "krroum" or "turra". (B104)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Precocial. (B107.w8)
  • Yellowish to chestnut brown. (B107.w8)
  • Ice-blue eyes initially. (P92.1.w3)
  • Cranes general: The initial down is replaced by a second coat of down; this is replaced by feathers. (B107.w8)

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Detailed Anatomy

  • The trachea makes a slight indentation on the sternum - about twice as much as that seen in Grus paradisea - Blue crane and Grus virgo - Demoiselle crane and similar to that seen in Grus carunculatus - Wattled crane. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes have ten functional primary flight feathers (with a vestigial 11th in most species), and 18-25 secondary flight feathers. (B107.w8)
  • Eleven primaries, with p8 longest an p11 vestigial covered by primary coverts. Tertials and tertial coverts are elongated, curved and pointed. Tail of 12 feathers is short and straight. (B107.w8)
  • Bill has serrated cutting edges at the tips of the mandibles. (B107.w8)

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Reproductive Season

Time of year
  • Spring; weather conditions affect the start of laying. (B107.w8)
  • Eggs generally laid June. (B48)
  • Eggs laid June, hatch end June/early July, 1977-1979, and hatching middle of July, 1961-1962. (B481.II.5.w13)
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

The nest of sedges and grasses, a flat mound 50-80 cm diameter and reaching 12-15 cm above water level, may be surrounded by water 25-60 cm deep. (B107.w8)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average Usually two. (B107.w8)
Range Two eggs. (B480.10.w10)
Egg Description Greyish-white, freckled at the large end, 100.2 x 68 mm, 248 g. (P91.1.w6) 98.5 x 60.9 mm (B481.II.5.w13). About 202 g (estimated). (B481.II.5.w13) Deep olive, spotted. (B480.10.w10)

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  • 29 days. (B107.w8, B481.II.5.w13, P92.1.w3)
  • Incubation begins after the first egg has been laid. (B107.w8)

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  • Asynchronous. (B107.w8)
  • Only about a third of eggs hatched, according to one study. (B481.II.5.w13)

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  • 70-75 days. (B107.w8)
  • Note: generally only one chick fledges due to high chick mortality, partly due to aggression between chicks. (B107.w8)
  • Substantial pre-fledging mortality with aggression between the chicks. (B481.II.5.w13)

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Sexual Maturity

Males Probably three years. (B107.w8, B481.II.5.w13)
Females Probably three years. (B107.w8, B481.II.5.w13

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Wades and digs in water up to 30 cm deep. (B107.w8)
  • Wades, feeding by probing vigorously in the mud, head and neck underwater. When an edible object is found, raises head up, shakes bill (holding object) in water, then with a rapid backward movements, swallow the food. Uses quick lateral head movements to drag obstructing plants aside. 
  • In India, mainly feeds in water-40-60 cm deep, eating roots of aquatic vegetation. (B104)
  • Forage while wading. (B481.II.5.w13); the head may be underwater much of the time and for e.g. six seconds at a time. On the breeding grounds, feed while wading but also seek berries and animal foods on dry hillocks and grassy tundra. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Walk slowly in water, picking bits of food from the surface, and (more efficiently) "dig-forage" in water. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Seek food (berries, animal foods) on grassy tundra and dry hillocks. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Chicks do forage themselves, but less efficiently than adults, and will beg for food by uttering a high-pitched whine. Juveniles gradually increase self-foraging during winter. (B481.II.5.w13)

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Parental Behaviour

  • Cranes general: Both male and female build the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: A secluded spot in the pair's territory is chosen, and the cranes unison-call there, then walk away from the selected place and toss nesting materials over their shoulders towards it. Returning to the nest site, they pull into the nest material which is within reach, then slowly walk away and toss more material towards the nest, repeating this sequence until sufficient nesting material has been gathered. (B107.w8)
  • Reportedly by the female, but also reportedly by both birds of the pair. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Often the parents leave the nest after only one chick has hatched. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Both male and female incubate, changing over several times during the day, but with the female usually incubating during the night. (B107.w8)
    • About every 30-80 minutes, the bird which is incubating will rise and roll the eggs or adjust the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Siberian cranes always observed with just one chick, which is usually between the parents. parents finding good food will call the chick to eat it. (B480.10.w10)
  • Cranes general: Adult cranes feed their chicks from soon after hatching. Both male and female bring small items to the chicks, presenting them by holding the food item at the tip of the bill or dropping the food in front of the chicks. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: Adult cranes continue to care for their chicks throughout the pre-fledging period and may bring food to the chick for several months (although chicks also follow their parents to food sources from an early age). Juveniles remain with their parents through the non-breeding periods but leave at the start of the next breeding season or are driven away after the return to the breeding territory. (B107.w8)

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Social Behaviour

  • Territorial even on the wintering grounds, with "families feeding together and expelling trespassers". Form only small flocks, 12-15 birds. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Appear to return to the same nesting territories year on year. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Pairs or families feeding 5 to 100m or more apart. (B480.10.w10)
  • Immature (second year) birds are found in small groups. (B480.10.w10)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Cranes are gregarious outside the breeding season, but separate for the breeding season. (B107.w8)
    • Juveniles which are not yet paired gather in non-breeding flocks and may be nomadic through the breeding period. (B107.w8)
    • By the end of their second year the young birds may have started to initiate pair bonds. (B107.w8)
    • Soon after the chicks fledge, families of migratory cranes gather in flocks at pre-migratory staging areas with dependable food and safe roosting sites. As the weather deteriorates, they move further south to join larger congregations of cranes, before setting out on the main migration. (B107.w8)

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Cranes general: Monogamous. Crane pairs stay together all year, and usually remain together until one partner dies. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: (B107.w8)
    • Cranes copulate repeatedly, starting several weeks before egg laying.
    • Mating usually occurs before sunrise, but can also occur at other times during daylight hours. 
    • In newly-established pairs, copulation is preceded by long bouts of dancing. Well-established pairs mate without any tension. 
    • The copulatory sequence is initiated by the male or the female. The initiating bird elevates its bill, arches slightly forwards and gives a low, purring call. The mate then shows similar behaviour. 
    • The male bird (usually) circles its mate with exaggerated steps.
    • The female spreads her wings. The male approaches, jumps onto her back with his wings flapping, and crouches.
    • The female elevates her tail, the male lowers his tail, and the cloacae of the two birds meet.
    • The male jumps forward off the female over her head and for a few seconds performs threat displays.
    • Both birds perform a long preening sequence.


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Predation in Wild

Gulls and jaegers steal eggs. (B481.II.5.w13)

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Activity Patterns

  • Flies at high altitudes during migration - seen at about 5,500 over the Himalayas. (B104)
  • Shy, unapproachable; strongly prefer areas which are not commonly frequented by people. (B104)
  • Roost in shallow water about 6 inches/15 cm deep, often in a long line. (B480.10.w10, B481.II.5.w13)

Cranes general:

  • Roosting:
    • Cranes (except the Balearica spp.) generally roost in shallow water, occasionally on mudflats, sandbars or dry ground.
    • In flocks, cranes stand about a "peck distance" apart while roosting.
    • Most of the time they stand on one leg, switching legs several times during the night.
    • The head and neck are tucked onto or under one shoulder.
    • Cranes defecate at regular intervals while roosting.
    • On the roosting site they are still and silent unless disturbed.
    • If there is an unfamiliar sound, or one member of the flock gives an alarm call, all the birds become alert and are ready to fly.


  • At dawn, they wake, stretch, preen and drink.
  • In small groups, they fly to a post-roosting staging area, and preen more; cranes may gather at such a site from several roost sites.
  • Small and then larger groups move from the staging area to a feeding area for the day.
  • Generally, cranes feed for a long time in the early morning, then move to loafing areas.
    • At loafing areas, cranes preen and drink, and also engage in social displays, establishing a pecking order for families, and facilitating pairing of unattached birds.
  • In the middle of very hot days, they may fly, spirally high up on thermals.
  • Later they return to feeding and watering areas and forage.
  • They then move to pre-roosting staging areas before flying to a roost site.
    • On the pre-roost staging areas they may engage in social displays.


  • In winter, 70% of the daylight hours is spend in feeding. (B481.II.5.w13)
  • Cranes general: Diurnal. Outside the breeding season, cranes roost at night and feed during the day. (B107.w8)

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Natural Diet

Adult Diet

  • Mainly aquatic plants (shoots, roots and tubers). (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)
  • Omnivorous, but mainly aquatic plants; in India in winter, mainly seeds of rushes, and bulbs, corms, leaves and roots. In Russia, more omnivorous, including small rodents such as lemmings (Lemmus obensis) and voles (Microtus gregalis, Microtus oeconomus and Microtus hyperborus), also small fish, lizards and frogs reported, as well as grasses, seeds, buds and roots of various plants. (B104)
  • Omnivorous. (B107.w8)
    • Breeding: roots, rhizomes, seeds, sprouts of sedges, other plant materials, plus insects, fish and small animals such as rodents. (B107.w8)
    • In winter mainly roots, bulbs and tubers of sedges, rhizomes, sprouts and stems of aquatic plants, plus aquatic animals if these are readily available. (B107.w8)
  • Various plants including grasses, roots, seeds, also small mammals Lemmus obensis, Microtus gregalis, Microtus oeconomus and Microtus hyperborus. (B480.10.w10)

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Newly-hatched Diet


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Detailed Physiology Notes

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Siberian crane central range map. Click here for full-page view with caption. crane eastern range map. Click here for full-page view with caption.

  • Aerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Uzbekistan. Possibly extinct Afghanistan, Inida, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan. [2012](W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Afghanistan (possibly recently extinct), Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong [vag], India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan [vag], Kazakhstan, Korea, Republic of, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan [vag]. [2006](W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Breeding: Arctic west and east-central Siberia, possibly extreme north-west Russia. (B107.w8)

  • Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan. (B475)

  • Breeding: arctic Russia in Yakutia and western Siberia, with three regional populations recognised: 

    • Eastern population: between the rivers Kolyma and Yana and south to the Morma mountains. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

      • Non-breeding birds summer in Dauria, on the border between Russia, Mongolia and China. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

    • Central population: on the basin of the Kunovat river, Russia. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

      • This population is biologically extinct. (W2.Dec06.w1)

    • Western population: in the Tyumen District of Russia. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Immature (non-breeding) birds may be found in west Siberia from the Volga-Ural steppes to the lower Ob, and eastwards to the Baraba steppes. (B104)


  • Migrate to three wintering areas on the middle River Yangtze in China, Keoladeo and other wetlands in India, and the south Caspian Sea in Iran. (B107.w8)

    • Birds from the main, "eastern" population migrate from breeding grounds in Yakutia to wintering grounds along the middle River Yangtze in southcentral China, via traditional stopovers in eastern Russia and eastern China (this includes protected wetlands in Xianghai, Momoge and Zhalong Nature Reserves in China). (B107.w8)

    • The few remaining birds of the "central" population (four remaining in February 1996) migrates from western Siberia (probably the lower basin of the River Kunovat) to winter in Rajasthan, north-west India. The presumed migration route passes through Kazahkstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan and traditional stopovers occur in Russia at Lake Akusat and Nar Zum wetlands, and in Afghanistan at Ab-i-Estada. (B107.w8)

    • The "western" population, consisting of about ten birds, which breeds in an undetermined location in western Siberia or possibly northwestern European Russia, migrates probably via the western coast of the Caspian Sea, with a traditional stopover at the Astrakhan Nature Reserve (mouth of the River Volga), to a single marsh at Fereindoonkenar on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. (B107.w8)

  • Migratory:

    • The eastern population's main wintering sites are in the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze river in China, , particularly Poyang Hu Lake. Wintering birds are also recorded in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

    • The central population winters at Keoladeo National Park, India.

    • The western population winters in Fereidoonkenar and Esbaran in Iran. 

    • Cranes general: 
      • Migratory cranes spend days to weeks at pre-migratory staging areas, integrating into the flock as well as building up fat reserves. (B107.w8)
      • To migrate, they feed for several hours early in the morning, then on a clear day with breezes, fly up, climbing in large circles by flap-flying and lifting on thermals, to as high as 2,00m, then assume a V-formation, wings extended, and glide south; after a certain amount of altitude has been lost, they spiral again to regain height, before gliding. Over water, without thermals, they flap-fly in V-formation. (B107.w8)
      • Young cranes stay close to their parents during migration and learn the route. (B107.w8)
      • Cranes call constantly during migration. (B107.w8)
Occasional and Accidental
  • Vagrant to Hong Kong, Japan and Uzbekistan. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)



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  • Wetlands for feeding, roosting and nesting. (B107.w8)
  • Lowland wetlands both when breeding and while wintering. Prefers wide areas of shallow fresh, high-visibility water. (B475)
  • Breeding:
    • Tidal flats, bogs, marshes and other wetland depressions with unrestricted visibility, on the lowland tundra and taiga-tundra transition zone. (B107.w8)
    • Middle to high latitudes, "mainly on dry eminences in inaccessible marshy shallow-water bogs, on grassy or reedy low-lying shores of lakes, or on brushland interspersed with woods." 
    • Non-breeding birds, including migrants, on river mouths, lake-sides and steppes near to water. (B104)
  • Migration resting/stopover areas: Large, isolated wetlands. (B107.w8)
  • Winter:
  • In China, shallows and mudflats of seasonal lakes of the Yangtze Basin; in India and Iraq, artificial water impoundments and flooded rice fields. (B107.w8)
  • Open jheels and swamps; faithful to specific areas. (B104)
  • Wetlands; wide expanses of shallow fresh water with good visibility are preferred. (W2.Dec06.w1)
  • The most aquatic crane, breeding and wintering in wetlands, particularly wide shallow water expanses with good visibility and undisturbed by humans. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

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Intraspecific variation

Monotypic. (B107.w8)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Endangered. There has been a dramatic contraction in range and decline in numbers of Siberian cranes since the 1800s. Estimated total population of 2,900-3,000 birds, mainly in the "eastern" population. The distribution and specialised habitat requirements of this crane make it very susceptible to habitat loss and exploitation. [1996](B107.w8)

  • The population is estimated at 2,500-3,000 and the trend is decreasing [2000]. (B475)

  • Global population is about 3,200, with 95% in the eastern population and wintering at Poyang Hu, China on the Yangtze River. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Population total estimated 3,500 - 4,000 individuals and decreasing; (3,750 counted at Poyang Lake in 2008; 3,4000 at Momoge in May 2011 and at Poyang, early 2012). only four individuals in the western subpopulation. (W2.Nov2013.w15)


  • Human demands on required stopover and wintering grounds, human disturbance at stopover areas and wintering grounds, potential changes in the primary wintering area in China due to the Three Gorges Dam, hunting on the migration route through Afghanistan and Pakistan. (B107.w8)

    • The very small central and western populations have additional threats (genetic, demographic) due to the small size of these populations. (B107.w8)

  • Habitat loss and degradation at staging areas and wintering sites, due to agricultural development, oilfield development and increased human use of habitats. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • The Three Gorges Dam will change the hydrological pattern of the Yangtze River and may greatly affect the wintering areas for 95% of the population (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Disturbance by humans, particularly at Poyang Hu, China (one of the main wintering sites). (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Hunting on passage in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • In India, pesticide use and pollution. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1, W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Mainly loss and degradation of wetland habitats at wintering and staging sites due to water diversion for human use, agricultural development, oilfield developmetn and human use. In particular, the Three Gorges Dam and the proposed dam at the Poyang Lake outlet. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Hunting on passage and wintering grounds in Iran is a key threat to the Central/Western population. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • In China, poisoning targeting waterbirds may also affect Siberian cranes. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Possible long-term threat from climate change with lake expansion, and loss of islands, peninsulas and low-lying shorelines as permafrost melts. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

Conservation actions

  • North East Asian Crane Site Network has been established. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Several key migration stopover points and wintering areas have been protected. (B107.w8)

  • Annual winter censuses at all known wintering areas. (B107.w8)

  • Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) in 1992. (B107.w8)

  • Captive propagation and reintroduction programm, set up in the mid-1970s. (B107.w8)

  • Several key areas are protected: Kytalyk and Chaygurgino in Russia, Poyang Hu and Dong Donting Hu in China, Keoladeo Ghana in India. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Captive-reared birds are being released to try to maintain the central population. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Memorandum of Understanding signed by 11 range states under the Convention for Migratory Species. Conservation Plans developed every three years. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • UNEP/GEF Siberian Crane Wetland Project conceived in 1998 and conducted by UNEP and ICF, 2003-2009, to protect and manage a network of sites important for this and other species, across Asia. Various achievements including four new reserves designated, three others expanded, upgrading of legal protection status at another three sites, designation of five  new Ramsar sites, new management plans and improved capacity for many sites and an environmental eductaion programme. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Increased research and observation, with some cranes fitted with satellite transmitters. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Release of captive-bred cranes to assist the Central Asian and Western Asian flocks, with release of 139 birds at Kunovat River Basin (breeding grounds), migration stopover points (Tyumen Region and Volga Delta) and Iranian wintering grounds. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Russian "Flight of Hope" project started. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

Additional conservation required:

  • Identification of breeding sites in north-west Russia, in the Kunovat basin and possibly other areas. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Enforce conservation measures to minimise the threats to this species' winter habitat from the Three Gorges Dam. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Expand the reserves (Kytalyk and Chaygurgino Resources Reserves) in Russia. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Expand the Poyang Ho Nature Reserve, or create more reserves, to cover the important winter areas and manage water levels. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Reduce hunting of the central population. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)

  • Further action is needed to strengthen conservation of critical migration and wintering habitats in China; research, management and policy activities are needed, including water management at Poyong to sustain wetland productivity, and integrated water management at stopover sites, as well as maintenance or improvement of water quality at key stopover or migration sites, and more long-term research on the effects of changes in water levels. Also protection and management of additional stopover sites; more research on movements and behaviours; technical assistance on wildlife health monitoring and management practices; improved relationships with hunters to promote sustainable hunting of waterbirds and improve awareness; cooperation with gas and oil companies to minimise Siberian crane disturbance and habitat degradation. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

General Legislation
  • CMS I and II. (B475)
  • Legally protected in all range states. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1, W2.Nov2013.w15)
CITES listing
  • CITES I. (B107.w8, W2.Nov2013.w15)
  • CITES I and II. (B475, W2.Dec06.w1)
  • CMS Appendix I and II. (W2.Dec06.w1, W2.Nov2013.w15)
Red-data book listing
  • Critically Endangered A3bcd+4bcd ver 3.1. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

  • Previously:

    • Endangered. [1996](B107.w8)

    • Endangered; 1994, 1996. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

    • Critically Endangered. [2000](B475)

    • Critically Endangered 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010;. (W2.Nov2013.w15)

    • Critically Endangered: CR A3cde (assessed 2006) "This species is listed as Critically Endangered because it is expected to undergo an extremely rapid decline in the near future, primarily as a result of the destruction and degradation of wetlands in its passage and wintering grounds. Poyang Hu lake, which holds 95% of the global wintering population, is threatened by hydrological changes caused by the Three Gorges Dam." [2006]. (W2.Dec06.w1)

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Captive Populations

  • First captive breeding at ICF in 1981. By the end of 2001, 190 individuals (83.88.19) were listed at 33 locations, the largest populations being at the Cracid Breeding and Conservation Center, Belgium, Tama Zoological Park, Japan, Oka Crane Breeding Center, Russia and the International Crane Foundation, USA. (N48.2.w1)
  • Four captive populations raising Siberian cranes for education and conservation. (W2.Nov2013.w15)
  • Total 321.312.161 in the International Siberian Crane Studbook 2009. (D436)
  • Total 166.174.52 = 393, 5th International Siberian Crane Studbook 2009. (N48.11.w1)

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