Beauty of Cranes in Mongolia | Crane Watching Opportunity | Bird Mongolia

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Mongolia has vast territory and valuable wetlands supporting rare species of cranes and other breeding birds. The three migratory flyways crossing over Mongolia which are East Asia Australian, Central Asian and East Africa-West Asia. The total number of 513 bird species, including 6 crane species have been recorded in Mongolia and about 80 percent of them are migratory birds.

What Crane species are recorded in Mongolia?

Every spring there are many beautiful cranes land in Mongolia’s wetlands, three species of them are summer breeders and other three species of cranes are the passage migrants.

Demoiselle Crane (grus virgo) – Өвөгт Тогоруу

IN MONGOLIA: Summer breeder

IUCN STATUS: LC (Least Concern)

POPULATION: 230,000-261,000 

HEIGHT: ~ 76 cm, 2 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 2,5 kg, 5.5 lbs

HABITAT: Commonly occurs in diverse wetland of Mongolia.

MIGRATION: They regularly fly over the Himalaya Mountains during migration at altitudes exceeding 26,000 feet.

APPEARANCE: Demoiselle Crane is smallest crane among others, has grey and black feathers, with white tuft of feathers behind its ears. This species also lacks a red head patch.

White-naped Crane (Grus vipio) – Цэн Тогоруу

IN MONGOLIA: Summer breeder

IUCN STATUS: VU (vulnerable)

POPULATION: 3,700 – 4,500

HEIGHT: ~ 130 cm, 4 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 5.6 kg, 12 lbs

HABITAT: Breeds in swamps and wetlands in river valleys. Can be seen in north-east region of Mongolia.

MIGRATION:  They migrate to their wintering grounds in the Yangtze basin and Poyang lake in China. Eastern breeding population migrate to North and South Korean demilitarized zone and Japanese Kyushu island.

APPEARANCE: Dark grey and white striped neck, reddish face patch, body plumage is dark grey, wings are silvery grey, pinkish legs; juveniles – body plumage mix of grey and cinnamon-brown, striping on the neck not as distinct as the adults.

Common Crane ( Grus grus) – Хархираа Тогоруу

IN MONGOLIA: Summer breeder

IUCN STATUS: LC (Least Concern)

POPULATION:  >700,000

HEIGHT: ~  cm, 4 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 5.6 kg, 12 lbs

HABITAT: Generally placed in or near water in inaccessible undisturbed bog, marsh and agricultural fields. Can be seen in northern and north-eastern part of Mongolia.  

MIGRATION: The winter range includes portions of France and the Iberian Peninsula, regions along the Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean seas, north and east Africa, the Middle East, India and southern and eastern China.

APPEARANCE: Slate grey body, red crown, forehead and throat are black, white stripe stretches from behind the eyes to the upper back, black legs; juveniles – pale grey body, cinnamon-brown head.

Siberian Crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus) – Цагаан Тогоруу

IN MONGOLIA: Passage migrant  

IUCN STATUS: CR (Critically endangered)

POPULATION: 3,600 – 4,500

HEIGHT: ~ 140 cm, 5 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 6 kg, 13 lbs

HABITAT: Very rarely seen in eastern part of  Mongolia during their migration.

MIGRATION: Only found in one main population in East Asia, with a few birds remaining in the historic Western/Central population. The Eastern population breeds in northeastern Siberia and winters at Poyang Lake in the Lower Yangtze River Basin in China. In the Western/Central population, a single crane continues to winter along the south coast of the Caspian Sea in Iran 

APPEARANCE: Red skin on forehead, face and sides of the head, white plumage with black wingtips, reddish pink legs; juvenile – plumage mix of white and cinnamon-brown feathers, tan head.

Hooded Crane (Grus monacha) - Хар тогоруу  

IN MONGOLIA: Summer breeder

IUCN STATUS: VU (vulnerable)

POPULATION: 14,500 – 16,000

HEIGHT: ~ 100 cm, 3 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 3.75 kg, 8 lbs

HABITAT: Flocks of non-breeders are very rarely seen in north-eastern part of Mongolia. 

MIGRATION: More than 80% of Hooded Cranes spend the winter at the Izumi Feeding Station on the Japanese island of Kyushu. Small numbers are found at Yashiro in southern Japan, in South Korea and at several sites along the middle Yangtze River in China.

APPEARANCE: Red patch on forehead, white head and neck, slate-grey body plumage, wingtips, tail and legs are black; juveniles – tan head, slate-grey body plumage.

Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) – Алаг Тогоруу

IN MONGOLIA:  uncommon migrant/breeder

IUCN STATUS: EN (Endangered)

POPULATION: 2,800 – 3,400

HEIGHT: ~ 158 cm, 5 ft

WEIGHT: ~ 7.5 kg, 16.5 lbs

HABITAT: More aquatic that other crane species, prefer wet meadows. Last seen in Mongolia in

MIGRATION: There are two main breeding populations: a migratory population on the East Asia mainland (northeastern China, eastern Mongolia and Russia), and a resident population on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.

APPEARANCE: Red patch on forehead, black band stretching from bill to front of neck, white plumage, black feathers visible when wings extended; juveniles – combination of white, cinnamon-brown and/or greyish plumage with light tan head.

Threats and Conservation of the Cranes in Mongolia

Despite its very low human population density, several factors have a severe impact on the natural environment in Mongolia, the most serious probably being overgrazing by livestock. Other threats are unplanned use and over-exploitation of natural resources, resulting in desertification, a growing number of steppe fires which often spread into woodlands, forests and reed beds; increasing infrastructure development, including construction of roads; oil exploitation; and poaching of wildlife.

Traditionally, Mongol nomads have been protecting birds, bird nests in the traditional ways and teach nature protection to the young generations. Today there many kinds of traditions based on their nomadic life style habits, and wise old sayings about conservations of the birds, especially cranes. But, in last years that traditions are fading among modern nomads, their livestock herding methods are changing to easier way and that have been impacting on birdlife.

In Mongolia, some excellent NGOs including, Wildlife Science Conservation Center of Mongolia and Mongolian Bird Conservation Center and have been working on the crane conservation projects, especially for the white-naped cranes, because Mongolia is important breeding area of white-naped crane and more than half of the global population breeds in northeastern Mongolia. Also, some monitoring and research works of Siberian Cranes have been running by those NGOs in cooperation with the international bird conservation organizations. Their bird conservation projects are also including the good programs that raise awareness of the local nomads on Birds and their natural habitat’s protection by local people who live near the wetlands and important bird areas.

Crane watching Tours in Mongolia

As I mentioned above, Mongolia is one of the most important and unique habitats for the 6 species of cranes in World. In Mongolia, we can have great opportunity to observe three to four species of cranes, sometimes five species of them, on the same trip in the same time, at the same place. Since we have been birding, we got many remarkable trips that we got to see four species and two of them are rare ones. Demoiselle Crane (grus virgo), Common Crane (Grus grus), White-naped Crane (Grus vipio), and the rare Siberian Crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus).

Best time to watch cranes in Mongolia is during their migratory periods, and in June, we have a chance to see Hooded Cranes while they are landing in Mongolia for few days. We would not mention the locations here, to avoid poaching. So if you are interested in crane watching in Mongolia please contact via our email.   

We the Bird Mongolia, have been following the “bird watching etiquettes” and guiding on our crane watching tours also. created a good guideline for birdwatching, visit  here to get what is bird watchers’ ethics, etiquettes and rules that you should follow.  

Photographing Cranes in Mongolia

Enjoy Bird Mongolia’s Crane Photographs which are taken during our past bird photography trips. 

Crane photographing basic ethics you should know: 

Bird photography provides a way of increasing public appreciation and understanding of birds and their habitat as well as providing enjoyment and satisfaction to the photographer.

• The wellbeing of the bird must be the main concern and every effort should be made to ensure that the bird is not stressed in any way. 

• Particular care is required when photographing nesting birds which may abandon the nest as a result of disturbance caused by the erection of hides and other equipment, by too frequent visits to the nest site or by the sounds and flash of the camera.

• Photographers should not ‘garden’ the area around the nest by removing branches or other objects which may block a clear view of the nest as this will increase the exposure of the nesting birds to the weather and to predation.

• There are no circumstances where modification to the nest or its approaches in order to force the bird into a more photogenic position is acceptable.

• Photographers should keep a close watch on their subject and look for signs of distress. Lingering too long in a bird’s core territory can cause undue stress and may result in nest abandonment.

• Photographers should use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups. 

Altogether 15 different crane species live on our planet, which are distributed over five continents. All belong to the bird order Gruiformes and the bird family Gruidae. Their size, age, distribution and threat status vary from species to species. In Mongoliathere 5 different crane species have been recorded. 

“There is no faster and better way to learn your birds then observing and learning from a local expert. Instead of staring at your field guide and flipping back and forth between birds, there is someone there who can explain what you are looking at and the subtle field marks that identify the bird”.  – BirdwatchingHQ

If you are eager to watch or photograph some of the most beautiful crane species of the world on the same trip, then our Crane Watching in Mongolia Tour is for you dear birder.

New species of crane discovered in Mongolia in 2020

A new crane species discovered in Mongolia by one of the renowned bird photographers Iderbat Enkhtaivan. The new species, Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) - Хар хүзүүт Tогоруу, globally threatened species and registered as Mongolia’s 7th species of crane. Read more >> Black-necked Crane in Mongolia