Siberian Crane

Siberian Crane

Snow crane, Siberian white crane

Leucogeranus leucogeranus
Population size
Life Span
15-30 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 
cm inch 
cm inch 

The Siberian crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus) is the world's third most endangered species of crane. Amongst cranes, its serrated bill makes it unique and enables it to easily feed on underground roots and slippery prey items. Among the cranes, this species makes the longest-distance migrations.


Adult Siberian cranes of both sexes have pure white plumage except for the black primaries, alula, and primary coverts. The fore-crown, face, and side of the head are bare and brick red, the bill is dark and the legs are pinkish. The iris is yellowish. Juveniles are feathered on the face and the plumage is dingy brown. There are no elongated tertial feathers as in some other crane species. This is a fairly large species of crane. The Siberian crane is usually slightly smaller in weight and height than some other cranes, particularly the Sarus crane, Wattled crane, and Red-crowned crane.




Siberian cranes are spread throughout three populations: western, eastern, and central. These distinct populations range from Yakutia in Arctic Russia to western Siberia. The population in the east breeds in northeast Siberia and migrates to China to the Yangtze River for winter. The central population of cranes breeds in western Siberia and then migrates to Rajasthan in India for winter, mainly at the Keoladeo National Park. The population in the west spends winter in Iran on the Caspian Sea's southern coast and breeds in Russia's northwest. Siberian cranes feed and nest primarily in marshes, bogs, and other wetlands where there are wide reaches of shallow fresh water with good visibility. They live mainly in lowland tundra and taiga/tundra transition regions.

Siberian Crane habitat map
Siberian Crane habitat map
Siberian Crane
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Habits and Lifestyle

Siberian cranes are not very social. During breeding and winter seasons individuals are territorial. Family flocks number about 12 to 15 cranes. They are aquatic birds and use the wetlands for feeding, roosting, nesting, and other behavioral displays. During the day they roost in shallow water, preen, and nest, and during the breeding season, attend to their young. At night Siberian cranes stand on one leg and tuck their head under their shoulder. Dancing behavior, such as leaping and bowing, is not directly connected to the reproductive cycle in these cranes, but it does reflect a bird's excitement. Cranes will dance with or without a partner, at any time, their head and neck being brought forward from a vertical position to where the head reaches down and back between their legs. The call of these birds is very different from the trumpeting of most cranes and is a goose-like high-pitched whistling ‘toyoya’. The unison calls, duets between paired males and females however are more distinctive with marked differences across pairs. The female produces a higher-pitched call which is the ‘loo’ in the duetted ‘doodle-loo’ call.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Siberian cranes are omnivorous and in summer have a more varied diet, which includes roots, rhizomes, sprouts of sedges, seeds, and other plant items. They also eat insects, rodents, fish, and small animals. When migrating and in winter, they feed mainly on plant material, and aquatic animals if available.

Mating Habits

29 days
70-75 days
2 eggs

Siberian cranes are monogamous and make strong pair bonds. Courtship and pair bonding behavior include dancing and unison calling, which is an extended and complex series of coordinated calls, usually initiated by the male. Breeding takes place in spring and summer. Siberian cranes usually nest in marshes, bogs, and other wetlands. Two eggs are laid and both parents incubate them, for about 29 days. The two eggs hatch but typically only one chick survives to be raised. Both parents feed and protect their young, with males spending more time feeding than females. The chick fledges in about 70 to 75 days and is reproductively mature within 3 years.


Population threats

Siberian cranes are threatened with habitat loss and degradation in their wintering areas, breeding grounds, and stopover sites. Other major threats include agriculture expansion, drainage of wetlands, oil extraction, and human development. Hunting in Pakistan and Afghanistan during migration affects them as well.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Siberian crane is 3,500-4,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Siberian cranes have an impact on the wetland areas of their environment when they feed on plant shoots and roots.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Siberian cranes are born with beautiful blue eyes but after about 6 months, they change to a light yellow color.
  • A crane can stand in near-freezing water for hours because it is able to constrict the blood vessels in its feet to reduce blood flow.
  • The Siberian crane makes more musical sounds than other cranes, mostly flute-like calls.
  • Siberian cranes are great fliers, able to go long distances in powerful flight. They use thermal soaring (columns of warm rising air) as much as possible. The primary feathers' black pigment strengthens the structure of the feathers, which greatly assists long-distance flight when the birds migrate.
  • Cranes attack their aggressors with their feet.
  • During the breeding season, both the male and female Siberian cranes are often seen with mud streaking their feathers. They dip their beaks in mud and smear it on their feathers.

Coloring Pages


1. Siberian Crane Wikipedia article -
2. Siberian Crane on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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