Hooded Crane, Grus monacha

The Hooded Crane (Grus monacha) is a small, dark colored crane. Its body is grey and the top of the head and neck is white, except for a patch of bare red skin above they eye. It’s one of the smallest cranes, but is still a fairly large bird, a 3.3 ft in length, weighing 8.2 pounds and a wingspan of 6.2 feet.

It breeds in south-central and southeastern Siberia. Breeding is also assumed to occur in Mongolia. Over 80% of its population winters at Izumi, southern Japan. There are also wintering grounds in China and South Korea. There are about 100 hooded cranes wintering in Chongming Dongtan, Shanghai each year. Dongtan Nature reserve is the largest natural wintering site throughout the world. In December 2011, a Hooded Crane was seen over wintering at the Hiwassee Refuge in southeastern Tennessee, well outside its usual range. In February 2012, one was seen at Goose Pond in southern Indiana, and is suspected to be the same bird, which may have migrated to North America by following Sandhill Cranes.

The estimated population of this species is 9,500 individual birds. The major threats to its survival are wetland loss and degradation in its wintering grounds in South Korea and China as a result of reclamation for development and buildings of dams. Conservation activities have been taken since the year 2008. Local universities, NGOs and communities are working together for a safer and better location for wintering.

The Hooded Crane is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A society called Grus monacha International Aid has been created to find ways to protect the species.

Image Caption: Three Hooded Cranes wintering in rice paddies in Kyushu, Japan. Credit: Alastair Rae/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)