The hooded crane is one of the smallest birds in North America, but with a wingspan of about 3 feet and a body length of 9-10 inches, it's still a big bird. This "mighty" bird has an iridescent dark gray coloration on its body with a white head and neck save for a patch of bare red skin above the eye.

As it pertains to cranes, hooded cranes typically form lifelong monogamous pairs; a mated pair may engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of coordinated calls.

Physical Description


The hooded crane is sometimes considered one of the smallest cranes, but can still be a large bird. On the body, it’s dark gray and often turns light gray-brown on the upper body with gray tips of the feathers. Its most recognizable trait is its black primary feathers, which contrast against a white background.

The crane has a long, whitish neck that is white from the front to around halfway in the back. Its head is also white with a patch of red skin on top of its eye. The hooded crane is a bird species. Its iris alternates between hazel-yellow and orange-brown, and its bill is yellow-brown with black legs & toes.

It's nearly impossible to tell the gender of this bird species based on appearance alone, but males tend to be a bit larger than females. In their first year, juvenile cranes have brown-gray feathers on their crown and some black white feathers.


The hooded crane is a large bird native to sub-Saharan Africa, where its population has been expanding in recent decades. They are 2-3.9 kg (5-7.5 lbs) in weight with a wingspan of 6 feet or more! Males tend to be slightly larger than females.

Native Habitat


The hooded crane is a woodland bird that can be seen in the boreal forests and grasslands of Siberia, Russia. Besides those areas, it also breeds in Mongolia & China. Due to the fabled lack of accessibility of these birds, they are one of the least known large birds in the world.

Consequently, there is little known about their former breeding distribution. The population of cranes in Japan is estimated to be around 11,500 individuals that are restricted to fewer than 10 wintering sites. Fewer birds winter in China and South Korea.

It may be difficult to imagine what life is like in Alaska as we continue to lose our wintering grounds and wetlands. The population of this area is continuing to decline, which has led to wetland shrinkage and damage.

Another cause for concern is that the Japanese hooded crane population, which winters in freshwater marshes, wet grassland, coastal tidal flats, and farmland on the Japanese Island of Kyushu, has declined in the majority of these habitats. This crane population is quite susceptible to diseases and could go extinct from natural disasters. Considering the current risks, this population is likely to decline in the near future.

Hooded cranes are found in open wetlands, natural grasslands, and agricultural fields in southern Siberia, northeastern Mongolia, and northern China. In the winter months, they utilize a wide variety of habitats. In China, this bird is mostly found on the shorelines of rivers and small lakes and along the muddy edges of lakes and neighboring grassy areas. In Korea, they are mostly found in rice paddies and agricultural fields. They are also sometimes seen near water. We can see some similarities between them and all those places!


Like all cranes, hooded cranes are known for their spectacular courtship dances that help strengthen bonds between mated pairs. The scene depicted above has a light-hearted, graceful mood. The birds in the image are seen moving with slight movements while they do various actions, such as flying and bowing. Birds often throw out these items to show the different things they are comfortable with, just by changing their behavior in a predictable way that is passionate and enjoyable.

Food/Eating Habits

Cranes in the gulf states and northern portions of the U.S. eat small mammals, while those in central and southern parts of North America feed mostly on carrion. It includes aquatic plants, berries, insects, frogs, and salamanders in the breeding areas and leaves, roots, and rhizomes on the forest floor. The animals that live here during winter are small aquatic animals like crayfish.


Reproduction and Development

For many cranes, male and female reproductive biology takes some time to mature. Motherhood often takes 3-4 years but many pairs still take longer than that to form a lasting bond. In the case of losing your mate, they'll be able to produce a new pairing. They have lots of other birds in their area & are familiar with finding a new mate. While the male is under their wings during flight, their female drastically decreases the amount of time they spend out in the open.

Hooded Cranes are often seen in moss-covered areas, with a mixed environment of larch trees. The male and female usually construct their nests from the surrounding grasses or reeds and lay their eggs. It's rare for both chicks to survive out in the wild.

When they do, they spend 27-30 days growing and incubating their eggs together. Male cranes stay at the nesting grounds & take care of the nest while a female brings in food. The chicks start to grow wings by 3-4 yrs old and begin their migration. They all leave together as families after 75 days in June & fly 1,500 miles south to their winter grounds


The lifespan of hooded cranes in the wild is not well documented, but the median age for both sexes in captivity is about 15 years.

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