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The Cranes

Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Hooded Crane

(Grus monachus)


JPG-Hooded Crane

Subjects:
Summary
Subspecies/populations
Population Numbers and Trends
Conservation Status
Historic and Present Distribution
Distribution by Country
Habitat and Ecology
Principal Threats
Current Conservation Measures
Priority Conservation Measures

Summary

The total population of Hooded Cranes is estimated at 9,400-9,600. The breeding grounds of the species are in southeastern Russia and northern China, while non-breeding flocks occur in the Russia-Mongolia-China border region. There are no subspecies. The species is divided into several wintering subpopulations. More than 80% of the world’s Hooded Cranes—about 8,000 birds—spend the winter at Izumi on the Japanese island of Kyushu, where they are sustained by artificial feeding. Small subpopulations are found at Yashiro in southern Japan, near Taegu in South Korea, and at several sites along the middle Yangtze River in China. Although little is known about historical changes in the distribution of the species, its numbers are known to have risen and fallen dramatically since the 1920s. At present, the population is probably as large as at any point this century. The species is classified as Vulnerable under the revised IUCN Red List Categories.

Hooded Cranes nest in isolated, widely scattered bogs in the taiga and in other forested wetlands, preferring mossy areas with widely scattered larch trees, and avoiding areas that are either too open or too densely forested. Non-breeding cranes are found in shallow open wetlands, natural grasslands, and agricultural fields in southern Siberia, northeastern Mongolia, and northern China. Wintering Hooded Cranes utilize a wide variety of habitats. In China, they tend to roost along the shores of rivers and shallow lakes, and to forage in the muddy edges of lakes and in nearby grasslands, grassy marshes, rice paddies, and agricultural fields. In Korea and Japan they feed almost exclusively at feeding stations and in agricultural fields.

Although the Hooded Crane is a threatened species, it is more secure than the other threatened cranes of East Asia. This is due mainly to the relative absence of intensive human economic activity in their breeding grounds. Moreover, the species (unlike the other East Asian cranes) winters mainly in Japan rather than China and the Korean Peninsula, where threats are somewhat greater. However, the species does face several critical threats, including: drainage of wetlands and intensified logging pressures in Russia’s taiga forests; reclamation of wintering grounds in China for agriculture and alterations in the hydrology of these areas; the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River; rapid development of the key wintering grounds in Korea, especially through the construction of greenhouses; and high risk of disease outbreak in the concentrated flocks at the winter feeding stations in Japan.

Conservation measures that have been undertaken on behalf of the Hooded Crane include: legal protection throughout the species range; international agreements to protect the species and key habitats throughout its range; recently expanded research on its breeding habitats, winter ecology, and migration routes; annual surveys of the population on its wintering grounds; establishment of protected areas, especially in its winter range; and intensive management (including the artificial feeding programs) in its main wintering area in Japan.

The Hooded Crane has many of the same priority conservation needs as the White-naped, Red-crowned, and Siberian Cranes, including stronger enforcement of existing laws, adoption of an umbrella agreement on the migratory cranes of East Asia, adoption of the Ramsar Convention in all range countries, expanded international conservation programs, continued research on migration routes, and protection of key habitats in China and the Korean Peninsula. Additional priorities specific to the species include: protection of potential alternative feeding and roosting sites for the wintering populations in southern Japan and Korea; studies of the West Taegu population in Korea and application of this information in creating an adequate protected area for the flock; agreements to bring greenhouse development under control in and near the Hooded Crane Protection Area in Korea; continued winter surveys of all Hooded Crane populations; and development of a program to monitor the status of the breeding grounds in Russia.

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Subspecies/populations

There are no subspecies. In the winter, the species breaks into several subpopulations. Most of the population spends the winter at Izumi on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Smaller subpopulations are found at Yashiro in southern Japan, near Taegu in South Korea, and on the lakes of the middle Yangtze River basin in China.

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Population Numbers and Trends

Wintering
Subpopulation
Number Trend Source
Hubei (China) up to 425 Unknown Hu 1995
Dongting Lake (China)     up to 200 Unknown Gui 1995
Poyang Lake (China) up to 360 Unknown Song et al. 1995
Shengjin Lake (China) 300 Stable, but
habitat declining    
Wang Q. 1991
West Taegu (South Korea)     <200 Declining F. Kaliher and C. Halvorson
pers. comm.
Yashiro (Japan) <50 Declining Kawamura 1991,
Eguchi et al. 1993
Izumi (Japan) approx. 3,000     Stable Ohsako 1994,
Matano 1995
Total 9400-9600 Stable

Note: numbers at the wintering sites in China (excepting Shengjin Lake) are highly variable due to the irregular movement of birds between existing protected areas in these areas.

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Conservation Status

IUCN category     Vulnerable, under criteria
A2c   C1
CITES Appendix I

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Historic and Present Distribution

GIF-Distribution Map

The first nest of the Hooded Crane was not discovered until 1974 (Pukinski 1977, Pukinski and Ilyinski 1977). Consequently, little is known about the former distribution of the species on its breeding grounds. Since the mid-1970s, research has shown that it breeds in remote, widely scattered bogs and wooded marshes in eastern Siberia, from Lake Baikal and southern Yakutia to the lower Amur River basin and Primorye (Neufeldt 1977, 1981; Fujimaki 1989). The first nesting reports from northeastern China were published in the early 1990s (Liu and Sun 1992, Li 1993). During the summer, Hooded Cranes also occur in non-breeding flocks in Transbaikalia (including Daurski Nature Reserve), Mongolia’s Uldz River valley, and portions of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang Province in China (Golovushkin and Goroshko 1995, Bold et al. 1995).

Hooded Cranes migrate through eastern Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning Provinces in northeastern China (Qiu 1991, Harris 1992a, Wu and Han 1992). Most of the population crosses the Korean peninsula, resting for short periods at scattered sites, mainly in North Korea. The main wintering population—a total of more than 8,000 birds in recent counts (more than 80% of the total world population)—continues on to Izumi in Kagoshima Prefecture on Japan’s Kyushu Island, where the cranes have become habituated to artificial feeding stations (Abe 1989, Chiba and Abe 1990, Higuchi 1991, Ohsako 1994). Since 1985, between 180 and 250 Hooded Cranes have remained through the winter in South Korea along the Naktong River near Taegu, although rapid development in the area has placed this population at risk (Cho and Won 1990, Kaliher 1994, Cho 1995, Halvorson and Kaliher 1995). Another small group winters near Yashiro, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Honshu Island in Japan (Kawamura 1991, Eguchi et al. 1993).

Lesser numbers of Hooded Cranes follow a second migratory route along the coast of Bohai Bay through Beidaihe, China, continuing south from there to several wintering areas along the Yangtze River lowlands in Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Hubei provinces (Williams et al. 1991, 1992; Xu X. et al. 1991, Zhao 1991). The largest regular concentration of wintering Hooded Cranes in China—about 300 birds—is found at Shengjin Lake (Wang Q. 1991), although counts at nearby Longgan Lake in Hubei have sometimes been higher (Hu 1995).

As noted above, little is known about historical changes in the distribution of the species. Available data indicate that the population has risen and fallen dramatically since the 1920s (Ohsako 1987, 1994). Winter crane counts at Izumi show that the population there increased rapidly in the late 1920s and 1930s, up to a pre-war high of more than 3,400 birds. During World War II, the numbers at Izumi fell to less than one-tenth of this total. In 1945, an airport was built in Izumi adjacent to the main roosting area. The cranes were intensively harassed in an effort to prevent collisions with planes, a factor that likely contributed to the species’ rapid decline (S. Smirenski pers. comm.). The population hovered between 200 and 300 through the 1950s, although it is uncertain whether this reflected an actual population decline or the movement of birds to other areas. After the artificial feeding program at Izumi began in 1963, the population began to increase steadily to its current level (Ohsako 1987, Higuchi et al. 1992). The population at Yashiro has declined from more than 250 to less than 50 birds over the last fifty years (Ohsako 1987, Kawamura 1991, Eguchi et al. 1993).

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Distribution by Country

China B, M, W
Japan M, W
Mongolia NB, M
North Korea M
Russia B, M
South Korea     M, W
    
B = Present during breeding season
M = Present during migration
NB = Present during breeding season as non-breeder
W = Present during winter

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Habitat and Ecology

JPG-Hooded Crane in mid-takeoff

Information on the breeding habitat of the Hooded Crane was first published in the late 1970s (Pukinski 1977, Pukinski and Ilyinski 1977, Flint and Smirenski 1978). The species’ breeding grounds are in the central and southern taiga of eastern Russia, generally to the north of the main breeding grounds of the White-naped and Red-crowned Cranes in eastern Mongolia, northeastern China, and adjacent Russia. Within this region, they nest and feed in isolated sphagnum bogs scattered through the taiga and (in China) in forested wetlands in mountain valleys (Su L. pers. comm.). The dark plumage of the cranes renders them extremely difficult to locate and observe in these settings. Non-breeding birds are found in shallow open wetlands, natural grasslands, and agricultural fields in southern Siberia and northeastern Mongolia.

Hooded Cranes prefer to nest in mossy areas with widely scattered larch (Larix siberica and L. dahurica) trees, avoiding areas that are either too open or too densely forested (Pukinski 1977, Flint 1978). The nests are constructed of damp moss, peat, sedge stalks and leaves, and branches of larch and birch. Eggs are laid in late April and early May. Usually two eggs are laid. Incubation takes from 27-30 days. The chicks fledge at about 75 days.

Wintering Hooded Cranes utilize a wide variety of habitats. In China, they are found near the shallow lakes of the middle Yangtze lowlands, but use drier habitats than the Siberian and White-naped Cranes that also occur at these sites. They tend to roost in the upper reaches of dried out mudflats along the shores of rivers and shallow lakes, and forage for rhizomes, seeds, and grains in grasslands, grassy marshes, agricultural fields (including fallow rice fields), mudflats, and lakeside beaches (Wang and Hu 1987, Chen and Wang 1991, Zhao 1991). In Korea and Japan they use agricultural (wheat, bean, and grass) fields and harvested rice paddies covered with grass or shallow water (Ohsako 1994). This is a direct consequence of the loss of natural habitats and adaptation of the subpopulation to the artificial feeding stations that have been established in the area.

Hooded Cranes are diggers and foragers in both their breeding and natural wintering grounds. Their natural diet includes aquatic plants, berries, insects, frogs, and salamanders in the breeding areas, and roots, rhizomes, seeds, blades of grass, and small aquatic animals in winter. Artificial foods, mainly rice, wheat, and waste cereal grains, are the principal food items in Korea and Japan (Cho and Won 1990, Ohsako 1987).

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Principal Threats

JPG-Hooded Cranes during migration, Japan

Because of the Hooded Crane’s particular habitat characteristics, it is relatively secure compared to the other endangered cranes of East Asia. The wooded bogs and marshes where it breeds have been largely unaffected by human activity due to their remoteness and inaccessibility. They are less desirable for agriculture than open marshes, and the logging that takes place in and near these areas is generally conducted during the winter, when the cranes are absent (Flint 1978). In addition, the main wintering grounds of the species are in Japan, where human population and development pressures, though intense, are less acute than in China’s Yangtze River basin (the Three Gorges dam, in particular, would have less impact on the Hooded Crane than on East Asia’s other cranes).

Despite these advantages, the Hooded Crane faces many critical threats.

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Current Conservation Measures

JPG-Artificial feeding area in Izumi, Japan

Legal and Cultural Protection

Hooded Cranes are legally protected throughout the species’ range. The land in Japan where most of the population feeds in winter is privately owned, and the cranes are strictly protected there.

International Agreements and Cooperation

See the White-naped and Siberian Crane species account in this volume.

Protected Areas

No protected areas have been established specifically to protect the Hooded Crane and its habitat within the species’ breeding range. During the breeding season, Hooded Cranes occur in the Zhuravlini Game Refuge, while non-breeders are often found at the Daurski Nature Reserve. In 1994, important breeding habitat along the Nora River was included within a proposal developed under Russia’s federal planning program for protected areas. With support from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Norski Nature Reserve has now been established in this area.

During migration, Hooded Cranes have been observed at the Zhalong, Honghe, Keerqin, Momoge, Xianghai, and Shuangtaizi Nature Reserves in China. Important wintering grounds are protected in the Shengjin Lake, Poyang Lake, and Dongting Lake Nature Reserves in China, and at Izumi Crane Park in Japan (Harris 1992a, Ma and Li 1994, Chiba and Abe 1990). In South Korea, the provincial government has designated a Hooded Crane Protection Area near West Taegu, but management of this area has been ineffective. Crane protection areas have also been designated locally at Hwasung Resort and Dalsung-Gun (S. Kim pers. comm.).

Habitat Protection and Management

In the species’ remote breeding territories, deliberate management of habitat has not been necessary. Habitat management is of greater importance on the wintering grounds. At Izumi, natural habitats and food sources no longer exist, and the cranes depend completely on intensive habitat management and artificial feeding. Fresh water is pumped over the agricultural fields where the cranes are fed to aid in cleansing the area. At Yashiro, brushy vegetation has been removed from former rice fields in order to create optimal roosting habitat and steps have been taken to reduce human disturbance of the cranes (Eguchi et al. 1993). In the Poyang, Dongting, and Shengjin Nature Reserves in China, the regulation of wetland resource use is an increasingly important component of reserve management for the Hooded and other crane species.

Surveys/Censuses/Monitoring

As yet, no comprehensive surveys of the Hooded Crane have been undertaken in the species’ breeding range. Counts of the main wintering population at Izumi have been conducted annually since 1947 (survey figures are also available from 1927-29 and 1936-39) (Ohsako 1994). In recent years, the wintering subpopulations in China and Korea have been surveyed on an irregular basis (e.g., Wang and Hu 1987, Cho and Won 1990, Halvorson and Kaliher 1995).

Research

Little studied until two decades ago, the Hooded Crane has since benefitted from field research on many aspects of its biology and ecology. Since Pukinski and Ilyinski (1977) reported the first location of an active nest, further studies have defined the breeding distribution and habitat needs of the species (e.g., Neufeldt 1981, Soviet Working Group on Cranes 1981, Fujimaki et al. 1989, Roslyakov 1995). The winter ecology of the species has been studied in Japan (Ohsako 1987, Eguchi et al. 1991); in China (Wang and Hu 1987, Chen and Wang 1991, Zhao 1991); and in Korea (Cho and Won 1990, Kaliher 1994, Cho 1995, Halvorson and Kaliher 1995).

International studies of migration have expanded significantly in recent years. Ozaki (1995) reports the results of more than ten years of banding studies of the species. Through an international effort involving Japan, Russia, and China, and coordinated by H. Higuchi of the Wild Bird Society of Japan, satellite telemetry has been used to track the migratory routes of the East Asian cranes since 1991 (Higuchi 1991, 1993; Higuchi et al. 1992, 1994b, 1995). In the spring of 1992, two Hooded Cranes were successfully tracked during their spring migration from Izumi, Japan, to their breeding grounds in Russia. In the fall of 1992, a Hooded Crane was successfully tracked over a 32-day migration from Daurski Nature Reserve in Russia to Poyang Lake in China. Two more Hooded Cranes were tracked from Daurski to Poyang in the fall of 1993. Through these efforts, important sites for migrating cranes—especially wetlands on northeast China’s Three Rivers (Sanjiang) Plain and in the Korea peninsula—have been identified (Kaliher 1993a, Chong et al. 1994, Ichida 1994, Higuchi et al. 1995).

Education and Training

Along with other crane species, the Hooded Crane benefits from education programs conducted at protected areas in China and at the feeding stations in Japan. Thousands of visitors come to observe cranes at Izumi and Yashiro in Japan. At the professional level, international exchange programs have recently allowed managers of protected areas, administrators, and scientists to engage in joint planning and training programs. One such program has brought together conservation officials and scientists from the Izumi Crane Park in Japan and Muraviovka Nature Park in Russia. Exchanges between Russian and Chinese crane conservationists have also increased significantly in recent years.

Captive Propagation and Reintroduction

The international studbook for the Hooded Crane is maintained in North America and as of 1994 included 106 individuals (Mirande et al. in press a). Regional studbooks are kept in Japan and the United Kingdom. Regional management programs have been developed in North America, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The species does not breed consistently in captivity. The first successful reproduction of the species in captivity occurred at ICF in 1976, and thereafter at the Guangzhou Zoo and Longsha Zoo in Qiqihar, China. The species has not been the subject of reintroduction projects, and at present no reintroduction efforts are envisioned.

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Priority Conservation Measures

Priority conservation measures for the Hooded Crane include those enumerated in the White-naped Crane species account under the following categories: legal protection, international agreements, international cooperative conservation measures, the protection of critical habitats on the Korean Peninsula, and non-governmental organizations. Many of the priorities in other categories will also benefit both crane species (and others as well). The priorities noted here pertain more specifically to the Hooded Crane.

International Agreements and Cooperation

  1. Address the conservation needs of the Hooded Crane within an umbrella international agreement on the conservation of the migratory cranes of East Asia (Japan, Russia, China, Mongolia, and North and South Korea).
Legal and Cultural Protection
  1. Develop in Russia a national policy for the protection of the bogs and other wetlands where Hooded Cranes currently, or potentially may, breed.
Protected Areas
  1. Identify and protect significant breeding areas in Russia and in China’s Heilongjiang Province.

  2. Identify and protect important migration resting areas in northeast China’s Three Rivers Plain.

  3. Secure protection through purchase, lease, or easement of farmlands in Japan used by wintering Hooded Cranes.

  4. Strengthen the Hooded Crane Protection Area at West Taegu in South Korea through:

  5. Identify and protect potential alternative feeding and roosting sites in southern Japan and the Korean Peninsula, including:
Habitat Protection and Management
  1. Undertake studies to assess the environmental impacts of the Three Gorges dam on the wetlands of the Yangtze River basin and to develop possible mitigation strategies.

  2. Assess and disseminate information on the social and environmental impacts of the dams proposed for the Amur River.

  3. Develop a plan to disperse the concentrated wintering flocks at Izumi, with special attention given to: identification, protection, and restoration of alternative wintering sites; increased research on local movements and feeding habits of the cranes; preparation of educational materials explaining the need for management changes; development of a provisional farmer compensation program; and implementation of gradual changes in the number, location, and management of artificial feeding stations.

  4. Work with people living in and near the Taegu Hooded Crane Protection Area to restrict further greenhouse development (with special attention given to protection of the areas that as yet have no greenhouses).

  5. Undertake basic measures to protect the aquatic ecosystems of the Chinese nature reserves used by the species (especially through more effective control of grazing, the cutting of grasses and reeds, and the inflow of sewage and pollution).
Surveys/Censuses/Monitoring
  1. Conduct (and at Izumi, continue) annual surveys of the subpopulations at all wintering areas.

  2. Establish a program to identify and monitor the status of the breeding grounds of the species in Russia and China.
Research
  1. Expand efforts to assess the risk of a disease outbreak and to monitor risk factors on the wintering grounds at Izumi.

  2. Continue satellite tracking studies of the species’ migration routes.

  3. Identify and assess the status of all present and potential sites used by wintering Hooded Cranes in South Korea in order to protect areas that could provide alternatives to the crowded sites in Japan.

  4. Conduct radio tracking and field studies of the local movements of wintering Hooded Cranes in Japan and China.

  5. Expand basic field research on the breeding grounds in Russia and China and at migration stopovers in the Korean peninsula and China.

  6. Undertake research to improve captive husbandry techniques for the species.
Education and Training
  1. Develop special public education programs focused on the West Taegu population. The proximity of the city of Taegu offers important opportunities for education, although these opportunities are contingent upon the continued use of the traditional feeding areas by this highly vulnerable population. Programs should emphasize the international significance of this wintering population and the need to protect their habitat.

  2. Develop education programs involving farmers near important stopover points in Russia, and near the wintering grounds in Japan, Korea, and China, in order to minimize the potential for farmer-crane conflicts.
Captive Propagation and Reintroduction
  1. Implement the following recommendations of the GCAR and CAMP for cranes (Mirande et al. in press a).

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