The endangered majestic black-necked cranes are highly honoured in Bhutan

Email

The Bhutanese believe that the cranes were sent from the heavens as avatars of their ancestors.

About the black-necked cranes

The black-necked cranes are a sight to behold. Awe. Memorable. Delightful. These are just three of the many adjectives that tourists to Bhutan have used to describe the magnificent cranes.

Adult black-necked cranes are four-feet-tall with a red crown and long, thin legs. Their head, neck, wings and tail are black, save for a small light grey spot that stretches backwards from their yellow eyes, as well as ashy grey body feathers. Meanwhile, young cranes have a black and gray body with a cinnamon-brown head.

Black-necked cranes can be found in parts of central China and northern India, as well as the Himalayan mountains, including Bhutan. They descend from the higher Tibetan plateau to spend winter in Bhutan.

Between October and February every year, the birds settle in Phobjikha Valley, also known as Gangtey, surrounded by the Himalayan peaks. They stay there in the alpine wetlands until spring. 

It is said that when the black-necked cranes arrive in Gangtey, they circle above Gangtey Monastery three times before landing on the marsh. They will also repeat the ritual before they depart from Bhutan to Tibet. 

The farmers in Phobjikha Valley believe that the birds' presence brings blessings to their crops. For the Buddhists of Bhutan, the black-neck cranes were sent from the heavens as avatars of their ancestors and loved ones. The birds signify longevity, peace, and prosperity.

In fact, the birds are so important to the Bhutanese culture that they are painted on houses and shops throughout the country.

Likewise, tourists travel from all over the world to see them.

 

Although Phobjikha Valley is where the black-neck cranes usually spend the winter, the people of Gelephu in southern Bhutan had a pleasant surprise on 14th November 2011. Two pairs of black-necked cranes (two adults and two juveniles) were seen in the Sarpang District, enjoying the hot sun.

There were heavy overcast clouds at that time, possibly leading to the birds’ misdirection. The clouds must have impaired their visibility as they were in flight. Or perhaps, the birds were trying out new spots?

Black-necked cranes are omnivorous as they eat both insects and plants. Their diet consists mainly of plant roots, insects, snails, shrimps, fishes, frogs, lizards, voles, and waste grain. 

Due to their remote habitat, the black-necked cranes were only discovered in 1876. 

Present-day, the black-neck cranes are under threat, thanks to habitat loss from climate change and pollution. There are approximately 5,000 of them in the wild. 

The black-necked cranes are one of the 26 endangered birds of Bhutan.

Bhutan’s effort to protect the black-neck cranes

In 2015, the black-neck cranes arrived to the Phobjikha Valley late. Naturally, the Bhutanese were worried. 

Aware that the cranes are under threat, Bhutan is taking steps to protect them. The efforts are consistent with the country’s Gross National Happiness policy, where one of the 9 domains is ecological diversity and resilience. Furthermore, Bhutan is adamant about protecting its wildlife, as can be seen from the government policy that mandates 60% of the country’s land to be under pristine forest cover at all times.

But the effort to protect the black-necked cranes started way before 2015. In 2008, the government decided to erect power lines that could interfere with the crane’s flight path. The power lines were meant to bring electricity to the villages.

Concerned about the cranes, the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), a non-profit organisation in Bhutan, spoke up. They volunteered to pay for solar lighting and persuaded the national energy corporation to invest in an underground power grid instead.

On top of that, they paired up with the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation (ICF) to expand wastelands and pay farmers so that they would opt against the expansion of croplands. They even constructed Bhutan’s first solid waste dump. All of this was to ensure that the black-necked cranes’ winter habitat was preserved.

The Black-necked Crane Festival

To create awareness on the importance of conserving the endangered black-necked cranes, the RSPN established the Black-necked Crane Festival in 1998. The black-necked crane festival is held on the 11th of November every year at Gangtey Gompa Courtyard in Phobjikha Valley with the help of the monks from the monastery.

The festival coincides with the birthday of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

The event celebrates the arrival of black-necked cranes during the winter. During the festival, there are cham dances and folk songs, all of which have a black-necked crane theme. There are also crane dances. 

Last but not least, school children perform conservation-themed skits and songs.

Wanna see the black-neck cranes for yourself?

If you wish to witness the majesty of the black-neck cranes yourself, book your tour to Bhutan between October to February and request for your tour guide to take you to Phobjikha Valley. If you are lucky, you’ll get to watch the majestic cranes soar through the valley, or right above your head.

It’ll be worth it.

Looking for a Bhutan Travel Guide?

Check out www.bhutantravelog.com for more information. Order your Bhutan Travelog on Amazon.



Related Posts

Wangdue Phodrang - The gateway to the far-flung corners of Bhutan

Known as Sha or east to the Bhutanese, Wangduephodrang district is an important gateway to the far-flung corners of...

May 27, 2020 08:47

What are the endangered birds of Bhutan?

Bhutan is home to 26 endangered birds. One of these birds even has its own festival.

Jul 19, 2021 10:35

Bhutanese actor raise awareness on climate change by cycling...

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk launched The Messenger: Ride for Action, planting trees and talking to everybody.

Nov 25, 2022 15:18

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

The King of Bhutan regularly visits his people

The royals of Bhutan have an honourable legacy. Visiting their people is part of it.

Sep 25, 2022 16:35

Here is what you need to know about tailoring in Bhutan

Bhutan continues to train tailors in both traditional Bhutanese tailoring and western dressmaking.

Aug 28, 2022 21:56

Latest

News

Progress on Bhutan's Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System Project

Bhutan now has 200 electric vehicles on the road, with another hundred to be dispatched very soon.

Nov 29, 2022 18:13

Translation of His Majesty's Address to the Nation at the 8th Session of the Third Parliament

His Majesty delivered the Royal Address on the Opening Ceremony of the 8th Session of the Third Parliament, 4th November, 2022.

Nov 05, 2022 15:23

Features

Bhutanese actor raise awareness on climate change by cycling through Bhutan

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk launched The Messenger: Ride for Action, planting trees and talking to everybody.

Nov 25, 2022 15:18

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

Business

School in Lhuentse embrace entrepreneurship through Chip Production Unit

Bhutan endeavours to guide their youth towards innovation and creativity. The trickle-down effect has seen Tangmachu Central School’s...

Nov 29, 2022 18:04

The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Sports

More Bhutanese youths are engaged in football

Sitting at the 186th position in the FIFA rankings, Bhutan looks to improve its rankings in the years to come.

Aug 03, 2022 20:19

BOB Bhutan Premier League is coming back soon with a bang

There’s an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation growing in the valleys of Bhutan as football fans in the country await what appears to...

Jul 24, 2022 14:47

Travel

A tale of two airports in Bhutan

As the slow pace towards a pre-pandemic world begins, two of the country’s domestic airports are going through their own challenges and...

Nov 03, 2022 16:30

What you need to know about birdwatching in Bhutan

The best seasons and locations for birdwatching in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Sep 25, 2022 16:57

Lifestyle

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!