Demoiselle Crane Demoiselle Crane
Demoiselle Crane

Scientific Classification

Common Name
demoiselle crane
Genus Species
Anthropoides virgo

Fast Facts

The demoiselle crane has long legs, a long neck and a long, compressed bill. Its body is light bluish gray with light gray on the crown and along the back of the neck and the nape. The face and front of the neck is dark gray with long, pointed feathers hanging over the breast area. White ear tufts circle the sides and back of head. The iris is red and the beak is olive at the base, yellowish at the middle and orange at the tip. The legs and toes are black, as are the primary and secondary flight feathers, and the tail feathers are gray with black tips. Both sexes look alike.
90 cm (36 in.)
2 to 2.7 kg (4.5 to 6 lbs.)
Feeds mainly on seeds and other plants; occasionally feeds on  insects
28 to 36 days
Clutch Size
2 to 4 eggs
Fledging Duration
50 to 90 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 2 years
Life Span
Approximately 20 to 25 years
This species has an extremely large range and can be found across central Asia from the northern Black Sea to China and Mongolia in the west. They have also been documented in Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and India.
In both its breeding and wintering ranges this species shows a preference for grassland habitats in close proximity to streams, shallow lakes and other wetlands, also frequenting desert areas where water is available.
The global population is estimated to number from 230,000 to 261,000 individuals. The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations are decreasing, stable or have unknown trends. The population is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

Demoiselle cranes will often fake a wing injury to lure predators away from their nests.

Their mating dance is a spectacular display. The birds walk stiffly around each other with quick steps, wings half spread and alternately leaping high in the air. During this display, the cranes bow deeply and stretch. Next, the cranes will pick up sticks or pieces of grass, throw them in the air, and stab at them with their beak as they come down. Both sexes, mature and immature, take part in the dances.

These birds tend to form life-long monogamous pair bonds.

During migration, these cranes will fly with their head and neck straight and their feet and legs straight behind them. They are able to reach heights of 4,875 to 7,925 m (16,000 to 26,000 ft.). Their migration is so long and hard that many die from fatigue, hunger, or predation from birds of prey.

Demoiselle cranes are the smallest of all crane species and the second most abundant. Only the sandhill crane is more numerous.

Ecology and Conservation

Habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, intensification of agricultural methods and changes in agricultural practices is the primary threat to this species throughout its range. Other threats include disturbance due to rising human populations, intensive use of pesticides, and hunting for sport along the migration route in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Demoiselle cranes are protected by a few cultures in many parts of its range. In several Islamic regions, the birds are held in high regard because they are mentioned in the Koran. In some regions of Mongolia and India, they are considered lucky birds and are protected by local people.


Ellis, D. H., Gee, G. F., and C. Mirande. Cranes: Their Biology, Husbandry, and Conservation. Dept. Of Int., Nat'l Bio. Serv., Washington, D.C. 1996.

Perrins, C.M. and A. Middleton. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.

International Crane Foundation:

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.

BirdLife International. 2018. Anthropoides virgo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22692081A131927771. Downloaded on 20 February 2019.