White-Naped Crane: The Ultimate Guide

We’re not surprised that the white-naped crane has attracted your attention. It’s such a graceful, streamline and elegant bird. And they are the fourth-rarest type of crane. It’s classed as a vulnerable species because it’s going through a rapid, ongoing population decline.

And if you want to learn a little more about them, you’ve certainly come to the right place – we’re going to cover as much as we can. But feel free to scroll ahead to any section you’re already intrigued by.


As the name suggests, the white-naped crane, Latin name Antigone vipio, is a bird of the crane family. It’s a very large bird that grows to a whopping 4.3 feet tall or more, that’s 130 cm.

It’s also 44 to 49 inches long, which is between 112 and 125 cm. An adult white-naped crane typically weighs about 12 pounds, which is 5.6 kilograms.

It has a very distinctive appearance, characterized by a gray and white striped neck, a red patch on its face, a torso that’s predominantly gray and white, and pinkish legs.

Juvenile white-naped cranes look somewhat different, however. Their heads and necks feature feathers that are cinnamon brown, while their flight and tail feathers are blackish gray.

Male Vs Female

Unfortunately, male and female white-naped cranes are virtually indistinguishable in their appearance, and it can be very hard to tell them apart. 

They become a little easier to identify when they begin to form breeding pairs, and then the slightly larger one can be identified as the male. 

But, there is another way to tell them apart. Research in acoustic analysis of mating calls has found that female white-naped cranes’ mating calls have a noticeably higher frequency than that of the males.

Are They Aggressive?

On the face of it, white-maped cranes can appear aggressive. They are quite territorial when digging and feeding. And some white-naped cranes have been known to be slightly aggressive towards humans, too. 

However, it is thought that the dancing that male and female white-naped cranes take part in as part of their courtship rituals serves to reduce and thwart aggression and relieve tension in both parties.

What Adaptions Do They Have?

One of the adaptations that white-naped cranes have is the feathers that cover its body. These feathers are white and slate gray on their heads and necks, accompanied by gray and white feathers on their wings and torso. 

They have also shown a behavioral adaptation. Because of the widespread loss of wetlands in areas that white-naped cranes are native to, the creatures have now shifted their migratory route.

Breeding / Reproduction Behavior

The white-naped crane is a monogamous species. And when a bond is formed between a male and female white-naped crane, this bond may last a lifetime. 

Their reproductive behavior typically starts in April, and begins with a long series of coordinated mating calls from both the male and the female. The mating call is very high-pitched for both parties and is quite penetrating.

Then, when they find each other, the female initiates a display, and both parties make their interest clear by extending their head and bill upwards.

We touched upon this earlier, but it bears repeating here. At this point, the attracted parties begin to perform elaborate dances. This may include such activities as wing flapping, jumping, running, bowing, and tossing grass or sticks into the air.

If the mutual dancing is successful, the pair will then retreat to their nesting sites, and then build a nest in an open wetland. And the pair will breed.

Copulation will result in two eggs being laid by the female, two to three days apart. Then both parents will take part in incubating the eggs, keeping them safe and warm.

This incubation period will last anywhere between 28 and 32 days, and both the adult white-naped cranes will fiercely defend their eggs against any apparent danger, in addition to the entire nest’s surroundings.

When the eggs hatch, both parents will play a significant role in rearing the baby chicks, including feeding them.

They will continue to rear the chicks right up until the chick’s wings are developed enough to take flight. And this occurs when the chicks are between 70 and 75 days old.

Their Calls / Sounds

As we discussed earlier, male and female white-naped cranes typically communicate with calls that are particularly high-pitched and penetrating.

And an example of when they might do this, is when they are attempting to attract each other to form a pair bond for reproduction and chick rearing. 

There is also a “unison call” which is intended not only to strengthen the bond between the two adults, but also serves as a territorial warning to other cranes that might be in the vicinity.

We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating here. One of the means to identify whether a white-naped crane is male or female lies in their calls.

Research in acoustic analysis of mating calls has found that female white-naped cranes’ mating calls have a noticeably higher frequency than that of the males.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

White-Naped Crane

White-naped cranes are omnivorous, which means that they will eat foods of both plant and animal origin.

The beak and long neck of white-naped cranes makes them proficient diggers, which is great for reaching into the ground to dig up and eat plant matter.

They will eat insects, wetland plants, small vertebrate mammals such as rodents, small amphibians, eggs, roots, seeds, tubers, and waste grains.

Outside of the breeding season, white-naped cranes tend to eat more grains, seeds and tubers.

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

White-naped cranes are native to such areas as southern Siberia, northern Mongolia, central China, Korea and Japan.

White-naped cranes are typically found in rather wet and marshy areas, such as grassy marshes, boggy upland wetlands, lake depressions, reed beds in broad river valleys, and wet sedge meadows.

In the winter, they can often be found at freshwater lakes and in farmland.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

The nests of white-naped cranes are basically just mounds of dried sedges and grasses found in the open wetlands where they typically spend most of their time.

When a pair of male and female white-naped cranes is formed, and they are ready to reproduce, both parent birds take part in the building of the nest.

Both parents stay close to the nest once the female has laid her two eggs, and both parents will take part in incubating the eggs at the nest, for about a month, and will defend the nest and eggs for up to about 75 days after the eggs have hatched.

How Long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

How long a white-naped crane will live in the wild is still yet to be determined. But we do know that in human care, the typical life expectancy for both the females and the males is 15.1 years.

Although we do know of one white-naped crane that lived for an entire 45 years.

What Predators Do They Have?

Although the population of white-naped cranes is rapidly declining, it is not thought that this is caused by predators that may be present.

Instead, the main threats to the life of these creatures is thought to be habitat loss with the drainage of wetland for agricultural farming, while breeding grounds in Mongolia are under threat from both overgrazing and human disturbances alike.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

The plumage of the white-napped crane is predominantly gray, with the wings and wing coverts being a more silvery gray.

Their wingspan reaches between 200 and 210 cm, which is between 78.74 and 82.68 inches.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

Their fecal droppings are comprised of their most common food residues, mostly rice hulls, wheat and barley husks, and grass fragments etc. To be honest, their fecal droppings are not particularly distinguishable from the droppings of similar species.

Do They Migrate?

In the winter, you will find that white-naped cranes will migrate to freshwater lakes and farmland. Certain groups will migrate to the Korean demilitarized zone, the Yangtze river, Kyushu in Japan, and even to Kazakhstan and Taiwan.

Conservation Status

We touched upon this in our introduction, but it bears repeating here. White-naped cranes are the fourth-rarest type of crane. It’s classed as a vulnerable species because it’s going through a rapid, ongoing population decline.

The current population of white-naped cranes is estimated to be between 4,900 and 5,500 in number, and is dropping quickly. But, they are not quite classed as an endangered species just yet, although we can’t rule out that this position won’t change as time goes on.

Fun Facts

As part of their ritual for attracting mates, during their crane dance, a white-naped crane can leap as high as 8 feet (243.84 cm) off the ground!

White-naped cranes are an important symbol in Asian art and folklore.

Cranes can get very vocal to warn other cranes that they are trespassing on their territory. If such warnings are not heeded, a fight could ensue.