Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.230,000-261,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 9,700-13,300 pairs, which equates to 19,400-26,500 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations are decreasing, stable or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 33.6 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).


Behaviour This species is fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It migrates on a narrow front via specific routes (Johnsgard 1983), and may travel vast distances without alighting to rest or feed (Urban et al. 1986). The Autumn migration begins in late summer (Meine and Archibald 1996) (August-September), with the species returning in flocks from its wintering areas to breed in March and April (sometimes as late as early-June in the north) (Johnsgard 1983, del Hoyo et al. 1996). On arrival in the breeding grounds the species remains gregarious for a few weeks, before becoming more territorial and eventually nesting in solitary pairs (although the species may still forage in small groups of c.7 individuals during the breeding season) (Johnsgard 1983). After breeding (from mid-August) (Snow and Perrins 1998) migratory flocks as large as 400 individuals begin to form (Johnsgard 1983), and on arrival in its wintering grounds the species often aggregates into huge flocks of up to several thousands or tens-of-thousands (Johnsgard 1983, Urban et al. 1986). Habitat In both its breeding and wintering ranges this species shows a preference for grassland habitats in close proximity to streams, shallow lakes and other wetlands, also frequenting desert areas where water is available (Johnsgard 1983, Ellis et al. 1996, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996). Breeding In its breeding range the species occurs from sea-level up to 3000 m (Johnsgard 1983, Ellis et al. 1996), inhabiting grassy steppes of feather grass Stipa and fescue Festuca, and dry areas dominated by wormwood Artemisia (Johnsgard 1983), the essential habitat requirement being access to water (e.g. rivers, streams or wells) for drinking (Johnsgard 1983). It can be found on hilly steppes along wide river valleys (Johnsgard 1983), shrubby steppes and semi-desert (Johnsgard 1983), forest edge habitats (e.g. meadows) (Johnsgard 1983), and occasionally unvegetated alkaline flats, or large expanses of rock or gravel (Johnsgard 1983). It will often forage in damp marshes and swamps (Johnsgard 1983), and is regularly found in cultivated areas (Johnsgard 1983). Non-breeding In Africa the species inhabits dry Acacia savanna, grassland, grassy river margins (Johnsgard 1983, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and semi-desert (where water is available) (Johnsgard 1983), but in India a wider range of habitat types are used, including marshes, freshwater lakes, rivers (Urban et al. 1986), cultivated fields and rice stubble (Johnsgard 1983, del Hoyo et al. 1996), sandy riverbeds, the flat and open margins of seasonal pans and farm ponds (Johnsgard 1983), and hot desert (if water is readily available) (Johnsgard 1983, Ellis et al. 1996, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996). It often roosts in shallow water or on sandbars and mudflats surrounded by water (Johnsgard 1983, Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet The diet of this species consists mainly of plant material (Snow and Perrins 1998) (such as grass seeds) (Johnsgard 1983, Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), although lizards and small invertebrates such as large insects (especially beetles) and worms (Johnsgard 1983, Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) are also taken during the summer (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species will forage in cultivated fields (Johnsgard 1983), feeding on ripening cereal crops in its breeding grounds (Johnsgard 1983), peanuts, beans and other crops on migration (Meine and Archibald 1996), and wheat, chickpeas, alfalfa (Johnsgard 1983) and lucerne (Snow and Perrins 1998) in India (Johnsgard 1983, Snow and Perrins 1998). Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape (Urban et al. 1986, Snow and Perrins 1998) (although often no attempt is made to find or construct a cavity) (Johnsgard 1983)on dry ground, lined or surrounded by pebbles and plant materials (eggs may be laid directly onto the ground) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The nest may be placed on gravel (del Hoyo et al. 1996) in areas partially or entirely free of vegetation (Johnsgard 1983), or in open patches of grass and cultivation, usually less than 1-2 km away from a source of water (Johnsgard 1983, Urban et al. 1986). Nests are rarely positioned closer than 200-300 m apart (Johnsgard 1983).


Habitat loss and degradation from agriculture (e.g. agricultural conversion of steppe grassland (Ellis et al. 1996, del Hoyo et al. 1996), intensification of agricultural methods and changes in agricultural practices such as increased spring ploughing) (Meine and Archibald 1996) is the primary threat to this species throughout its range. Other threats include disturbance due to rising human populations (Ellis et al. 1996), intensive use of pesticides (Ellis et al. 1996, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996), hunting for sport (along the migration route in Afghanistan and Pakistan) (Meine and Archibald 1996), and shooting and intentional poisoning in some areas where crop damage occurs (Ellis et al. 1996, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996). Many migratory habitats have also been lost through the building of dams and the drainage of wetlands (Meine and Archibald 1996), and the breeding population in Morocco is threatened by over-grazing and mining (Meine and Archibald 1996).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. The following information refers to the species's range in Europe only: A European Crane Working Group has been established. The species was included in the IUCN conservation action plan for cranes (Meine and Archibald 1996). The species is legally protected in Russia and Ukraine. The species is mostly found outside of protected areas. In recent years, only one pair from the Black Sea population has bred within a protected area, at Azov-Sivash National Park in Ukraine. Conservation programmes such as those in the Ukraine, have thus far, focused on analyzing the factors affecting the species in agricultural settings, and identifying methods to reduce negative impacts. Surveys have been undertaken in areas such as Ukraine and Georgia. In 1992, the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Station in Ukraine established The Virgo Programme to monitor this and other rare and disappearing bird species of the Ukrainian steppes. Research has focused on distribution, population numbers, biology, flock movements, breeding ecology and migration patterns from various portions of its main breeding range. Education programs involving the species have also been initiated in Ukraine (Meine and Archibald 1996).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's range in Europe only: The species would benefit from stronger protection of the Black Sea population and its habitats by strengthening the network of protected areas, as well as the protection of breeding habitat outside of protected areas by working with landholders to implement conservation measures. Long term monitoring should be continued and expanded and surveys conducted to determine the size of the Turkish population, assess its habitat and potential threats. Continue research, focusing on the breeding biology, range, migration, habitat requirements and threats to the species. Organize migration watches in the Balkan Peninsula and Cyprus. Educational programs for use throughout the population's range should be developed. Examine the historic range and habitats of the Black Sea population, and the potential for its eventual re-establishment in areas from which it has been extirpated or now occurs only during migration. Enforcement of existing hunting restrictions in Georgia should be strengthened (Meine and Archibald 1996).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Anthropoides virgo. Downloaded from on 01/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/06/2023.