Grus nigricollis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Gruiformes Gruidae

Scientific Name: Grus nigricollis
Species Authority: Przevalski, 1876
Common Name(s):
English Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Crane
Spanish Grulla Cuellinegra
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 139 cm. Large, whitish-grey crane. Black head and upper neck apart from whitish postocular patch and red crown patch. Black primaries and secondaries. Similar spp. Common Crane G. grus is smaller, has white stripe from behind eye extending down nape and black primaries, not secondaries. Red-crowned Crane G. japonensis has white primaries and more extensive white area behind eye. Voice Call is high-pitched and penetrating.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Chan, S. & Harris, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Chan, S., Khwaja, N., Mahood, S., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Allinson, T
This species is classified as Vulnerable because it has a single small population that is in decline owing to the loss and degradation of wetlands, and changing agricultural practices in both its breeding and wintering grounds. However, the population has apparently increased in recent years, and if these increases prove to be genuine and sustained then downlisting to a lower threat category may be appropriate.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Grus nigricollis breeds on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China, with a small population in adjacent Ladakh, India (BirdLife International 2001). Six wintering areas have been identified at lower altitudes on the Qinghai-Tibet and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus, China, including counts of 3,562 birds in Yunnan and western Guizhou in winter 2003 (Li 2005) and, in Tibet, 4,277 in 1999 (Li 2005) increasing to 6,940 in 2007 (Bishop and Drolma 2007). It also winters in Bhutan (450 individuals), and Arunachal Pradesh, India (10 individuals) and small numbers were once recorded in Vietnam (Bishop and Drolma 2007), but this species has not been seen here for over than 30 years. The global population is estimated at 10,070-10,970, including 1,000 (Cao Hai), 1,000 (Dashanbao), 800-1,200 (other parts of NE Yunnan), 300 (NW Yunnan), 6,500-7,000 (Tibet), 450 (Bhutan), and ~20 (India) (J. Harris in litt. 2012). Key sites on the birds' migration include the wetlands of the Ruoergai Plateau (China), which serves as a stopover for some individuals and a breeding ground for others, and Gasa (Bhutan), used as a stopover in both autumn and spring (Lhendup and Webb 2009, Qian et al. 2009, Wu et al. 2009). Evidence from Tibet, and a long term study at Cao Hai, Guizhou (Chen 2002), indicates that the population may be increasing in line with conservation efforts and changing attitudes, but it is not known whether these figures represent short-term population peaks, or long-term trends.

Countries occurrence:
Bhutan; China; India
Regionally extinct:
Viet Nam
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:632000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):2100
Upper elevation limit (metres):4900
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated at c.10,070-10,970 individuals in total, probably including c.6,600 mature individuals (J. Harris in litt. 2012).

Trend Justification:  This species's population is presumed to have decreased in line with levels of grassland degradation (owing to intensive grazing and pesticide use) and drying up of marshes (due to increased extraction and desertification), and changing agricultural techniques that have reduced the availability of grain in cultivated areas. Recent increases appear to be genuine, but may possibly be a result of more thorough surveys and perhaps an increased concentration of birds at fewer sites.

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:6600Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It breeds in alpine bog meadows and riverine marshes, favouring lacustrine marshes from 2,600-4,900 m. It prefers to nest at large water bodies, at a water depth of around 30 cm: this probably minimises exposure to nest predators. It winters in river valleys and along reservoir shorelines in the vicinity of barley and spring wheat fields. Whilst it prefers breeding in lakes, shallow marshes and meadows are the most important habitat for feeding; its diet consists of roots, tubers, insects, snails, shrimps, fish, small birds and rodents (Wu et al. 2009, Qiang Liu et al. 2010).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):13
Movement patterns:Altitudinal Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Intensive grazing and pesticide use has caused degradation of grasslands in the Ruoergai (Zoige) breeding grounds, China. In central Tibet, farmers are increasingly planting high yield winter wheat rather than traditional crops. Ploughing in autumn rather than spring has reduced the availability of grain on cultivated land. The drying-up of marshes and desertification as a result of surrounding development and agriculture is affecting some breeding sites. Mechanised farming and draining of wetlands for settlement expansion are the major threats in Bhutan; grazing, hunting and stray dogs have possibly also contributed to declines (Lhendup and Webb 2009). A dam planned on the Lhasa river threatens wintering birds. Fish-farming, peat and firewood collection, river channelisation, industrial pollution and sedimentation, and the construction of roads and fences have resulted in increased disturbance and habitat degradation in Qinghai, Sichuan, Ruoergai and Yunnan, China (Wu et al. 2009, Qiang Liu et al. 2010). Further disturbance at the species' stopover sites arises from the use of the areas as camping grounds by local herders (Qian et al. 2009). At Dashanbao National Nature Reserve, China, farmland is being converted to grassland and woodland as part of conservation measures; however, recent work suggests this is detrimental to the cranes as they prefer farmland (Kong et al. 2011). The collection of eggs and poaching are problems in parts of China and India, and unsustainable tourism threatens its habitat (Anon. 2011). A small number of birds have been killed after striking power-lines (Li 2002; Li et al. 2012). Climate change scenarios suggest that glacier melt as well as changes in precipitation and evapotranspiration are likely to lead to substantially reduced breeding habitat (wetlands) within high altitude breeding range of the species (J. Harris in litt. 2007). For example, at the key breeding area of Ruoergai in Sichuan and Gansu, 6 of 17 lakes over 6.6 ha have already dried completely during 1985-2000, and the size of the other 11 lakes has decreased to different degrees (J. Harris in litt. 2007). Natural predators of the species include common leopards, yellow-throated martens, leopard cats and Asiatic golden cats (Anon. 2010a).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. CMS Appendix I and II. It is legally protected in China, India and Bhutan. Major breeding and wintering areas are protected in China. There have been conservation and development programmes in local communities at the important sites of Cao Hai and Dashanbao. The Indian breeding population occurs in the Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary. Shooting of cranes and other wildlife in the region has been substantially reduced due to control of firearms, better enforcement of wildlife protection laws and greater awareness (J. Harris in litt. 2007). There is an annual census of the wintering population in Bhutan, where there is also November festival held to raise public awareness of the importance of crane conservation (Anon. 2010a, b), and annual winter counts at Dashanbao, Cao Hai and Napahai. Winter ecology and migration studies have been conducted extensively in recent years. Winter cropping is banned in Bumdeling, Bhutan, to maintain a food supply for the cranes (Lhendup and Webb 2009).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to study its migration. Designate breeding areas in Ladakh (India) as waterbird sanctuaries. Stop drainage of marshes and the use of pesticides and rodenticides at Ruoergai marshes (China). Maintain water-levels of wetlands at Cao Hai (China) and prohibit encroachment. Leave some harvested fields unploughed in the wintering grounds between November-March. Include newly identified stopover sites, most of which are not already protected, in the nature reserve system, especially those threatened by disturbance from local herders (Qian et al. 2009). Conduct regular monitoring of birds along migration routes (Lhendup and Webb 2009). At Ruoergai (China) control meadow livestock during key feeding periods (May to August) and establish protected buffer zones around breeding lakes and swamps (Wu et al. 2009). Restrict livestock at Napahai (China) and maintain a network of farmed areas as wetlands (Qiang Liu et al. 2010). Ban settlement expansion in important areas of crane habitat in Bhutan. Implement subsidies for farmers in important areas to promote management that suits the cranes. Careful planning on tourist/eco-tourist development in both wintering and breeding areas.  Regulate tourist access to the species. Implement education programmes for the general public, especially students, teachers and policy makers. Create a new action plan for the species (Lhendup and Webb 2009).  Monitor impact from climatic and glacial changes on breeding habitats. Black-necked Crane network in China has been proposed to improve monitoring and education.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Grus nigricollis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22692162A93338670. . Downloaded on 29 March 2017.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided