Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (6): 22400.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022400

• Original Papers: Animal Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Global distribution and number of overwintering black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis)

Jiajia Chen1, Zhen Pu1, Zhonghong Huang1, Fengqin Yu2, Jianjun Zhang3, Donghua Xu4, Junquan Xu4, Peng Shang4, Dilimulati·Parhati4, Yaojiang Li5, Jigme Tshering6, Yumin Guo1,*()   

  1. 1. School of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
    2. Wildlife Ark Green Cross, Beijing 100013, China
    3. Yunnan Huize Black-necked Crane National Nature Reserve Administration, Qujing, Yunnan 654200, China
    4. Altun Mountain National Nature Reserve Administration, Korla, Xinjiang 841000, China
    5. Central Kunlun Nature Reserve Administration, Qiemo County, Xinjiang 841900, China
    6. Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Thimphu 325, Bhutan
  • Received:2022-07-13 Accepted:2023-03-05 Online:2023-06-20 Published:2023-06-16
  • Contact: * E-mail:


Aims: Due to low densities and secretive breeding behavior on mating grounds, bird surveys in winter are important for assessing population trends. The black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis) was downgraded from Vulnerable (VU) to the Near Threatened (NT) conservation status in 2020, yet the latest version of its population survey was in 2014, which may vary from the current population size. This study aims to investigate the black-necked crane’s population size and overwintering sites to provide important information for conservation.

Methods: Using the direct count method we surveyed the overwintering black-necked crane’s population size and location from January to March 2022 in Bhutan as well as in 4 provinces of China, namely Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan, and Guizhou. In roost sites, we used drone imagery to count densely distributed populations. The location of observation sites and the survey routes were recorded by 2bulu (v7.1.9-1217). Both the distribution map of the overwintering black-necked crane and the roadmap of the survey were drawn in QGIS (v3.22.2).

Results: A total of 17,389-17,610 black-necked cranes were recorded in this survey, including 11,812-11,895 individuals in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and 5,577-5,715 in Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. A new overwintering site was found in Xinjiang.

Conclusion: This study provides the latest record of the black-necked crane’s population and overwinter distribution. We also put forward suggestions on dividing overwintering populations in Tibet into the Xigazê overwintering population, the Lhasa-Lhoka overwintering population, and the Nyingchi overwintering population. The results may provide basic data for further conservation and ecological research on the black-necked crane.

Key words: black-necked crane, wintering birds, population distribution, population number, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau