White-naped Crane Grus vipio


Justification of Red List category
This crane is listed as Vulnerable because it is thought to be experiencing a rapid and on-going population decline. Currently, its western subpopulation is undergoing a very rapid decline, while the eastern subpopulation suffers rapid loss of habitat, with critical winter habitat at the Korean Demilitarized Zone and elsewhere highly insecure and deteriorating.

Population justification
The total population is estimated at 6250-6750 individuals, based on recent counts of 500-1,000 individuals wintering in China, and an estimate of 5,750 wintering in Korea/Japan (based on coordinated counts from winters 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 (L Kisup and Y. Haraguchi pers comm., Harris and Mirande in prep.). Double counting is possible between the Korean sites and Japanese sites due to movement of birds during the wintering period, and counts therefore require close coordination.

Trend justification
Although accurate data on population trends are lacking, numbers are thought likely to be in rapid decline owing to habitat loss in both the breeding and wintering grounds, as well as other confounding factors such as hunting, disturbance, nest predation and pollution.

Distribution and population

Antigone vipio breeds in Dauria on the border of Russia, Mongolia and China, the Amur and Ussuri basins on the Sino-Russian border and the Songnen and Sanjiang plains, China. It migrates along the Songnen plain and Gulf of Bohai to its wintering grounds in the Yangtze basin, now almost entirely at Poyang Hu (c.500-1000), along the Korean peninsula to the Demilitarized Zone in North Korea/South Korea, mainly Cholwon (c.1,900 individuals), and to southern Kyushu in Japan. Three stop over sites are used regularly; Duolun in Inner Mongolia, Cangzhou (Hebei)/Beidagang (Tianjin) along Bohai Bay and the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve (Jiao et al. 2014). The total population is estimated at c.6,250- 6,750 individuals (Harris and Mirande in prep.). Counts in the Sanjiang plains suggests increases between 1984 and 2008, though double counting may be an issue (Jiang et al. 2012).


It breeds in the wetlands of steppe and forest-steppe zones, in grassy marshes, wet sedge-meadows and reedbeds in broad river valleys, lake depressions and boggy upland wetlands, preferring areas where its nest can be concealed and there is little grazing pressure (Bradter et al. 2007). Egg incubation in Muraviovka Park, southeast Russia was found to be 33-35 days and hatching success 56.3%. Only females were found to brood chicks (Kitagawa 2014). Its preferred habitats are less aquatic than for the Red-crowned Crane found over much of the same breeding range. In winter, it frequents freshwater lakes, farmland and occasionally coastal flats (Meine and Archibald 1996). 


The loss of wetlands to agricultural expansion and growing human demand for water, on both breeding and wintering grounds, is the main threat (Harris and Mirande in prep). Between 2000 and 2009, wetland loss in the western (Daurian) part of the range has been greatly exacerbated by prolonged drought conditions. This drought is part of a climatic cycle, and is predicted to persist until 2015 (O. Gorosko in litt. 2007). Breeding birds are also threatened by steppe fires, whilst livestock grazing may cause disturbance and reduce the availability of suitable nesting habitat (Bradter et al. 2005). In its China wintering grounds, the main threats are from development and increasing human disturbance of wetlands in the Yangtze basin, the effects of the Three Gorges Dam on wetlands in the Yangtze basin, the proposed construction of a dam at the outlet to Poyang Lake (Harris and Zhuang 2010); and in Korea, the potential development of wetlands in the Demilitarised Zone. In China, wintering flocks occur outside of existing reserves, and are consequently at risk from hunting, direct disturbance, pollution from pesticide use and further loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion (Higuchi et al. 2004). At Cholwon, Korea, a switch from spring to autumn ploughing of rice paddies resulted in reduced foraging rates, potentially affecting overwinter survival (Don Lee et al. 2007).  Mortality due to agricultural chemicals has been reported and is probably under-estimated.  In Japan, the high proportion of individuals wintering at a single site at Izumi may render the population at greater risk from stochastic events or disease. Izumi is the main poultry region in Japan, and a disease outbreak among cranes could lead to over-reaction and extreme control measures due to economic risks to poultry farmers. The presence of livestock is likely to be detrimental because of disturbance, although it is possible that a limited amount of grazing could be important for maintaining habitat (Bradter et al. 2007). Poisoning from  pesticides and poaching is a growing issue (J. Harris in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. CMS Appendix II. It is legally protected in all range states. Protected areas have been established for its conservation, of which the most important are Khingansky, Muraviovka, Daursky and Lake Khanka (Russia), Daguur (Mongolia), Zhalong, Xingkai Hu, Xianghai, Keerqin, Poyang Lake, Dongting Lake and Shengjin Hu (China), Kumya and Mundok (North Korea), and Izumi-Takaono (Japan). Artificial feeding has resulted in an increase in the population wintering in Japan. A study into the migration routes and wintering areas used is being conducted by colour banding and attaching radio transmitters to individuals (Archibald 2013, Jiao et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Establish transboundary protected areas at the Tumen estuary between Russia, China and North Korea and the Argun River between Russia and China. Secure the conservation status of Cholwon and the Han River estuary in the Demilitarised Zone. Increase the number of suitable wintering sites in Japan. Enforce conservation measures to minimise threats from the Three Gorges Dam and thousands of other dams to wetlands along the Yangtze and at Poyang. Extend or establish protected areas for breeding and wintering grounds as well as migratory stopovers, including Kumya, Lake Khanka-Xinghai, Poyang Lake, Sanjiang Plain, Sonbon and Bohai Bay. Control spring fires in the breeding grounds. Prevent poisoning from pesticides and poaching. Establish local crane conservation groups at small wintering and breeding sites. Establish a database combining the locations of crane records with details of existing reserve boundaries in order to identify priority sites. Ensure conservation measures are targeted to within 3 km of roosting sites, as a recent study has shown that to be the maximum distance travelled by foraging individuals (Bradter et al. 2007).  Develop emergency response plans in case of avian disease outbreak at Izumi.


125 cm. Large grey crane. Slate-grey body with white throat and vertical white stripe from crown down back of neck. Extensive patch of red on face. Juvenile has brown head and pale throat. Similar spp. Common Crane G. grus has black nape, face and foreneck. Hooded Crane G. monacha has fully white neck and white face below the eye. Voice High-pitched, penetrating calls.


Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Khwaja, N., Benstead, P., Martin, R., Gilroy, J., North, A.

Harris, J., Goroshko, O.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Grus vipio. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/12/2023.