Annual Black-necked Crane Count for Bhutan for 2015-2016 Winter Period

Black-necked Crane in Phobjikha (Photo by: Gen Kato)

By February the migration of Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis) from China is usually considered complete. The number of Black-necked Cranes in various habitats in the country are at its peak at this time of the year and it is the perfect time to conduct the annual count.

The annual count at the national level is conducted following a simple vantage point count method simultaneously in all the habitat. The count is coordinated by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and the Department of Forest and Part Services (DoFPS).

In recent years, other stakeholders have been involved in the count as well. The count helps in understanding the population trend of the cranes and also monitoring the juvenile population which are very useful. The count is normally carried in the morning before the cranes fly away from their roosting area.

For this season (2015-2016 winter period), the annual count was conducted on 3rd February at 0600 hours. The date and time for the count was fixed in close consultation with all the stakeholders across the habitats.

A record of 609 cranes including 68 juveniles were counted. This is indeed the highest record in the past 30 winter period records maintained with RSPN. Of the total of 609 Black-necked Cranes, 68 were juvenile. Compared to last winter period (2014-2015) which saw 544 cranes, this year Bhutan have an additional of 65 cranes. Phobjikha valley have an additional of 61 cranes compared to last winter period with 396.

Black-necked Cranes annual count figure for 2015-2016 Winter Period:

Habitat and Dzongkhag Adult Juvenile Total
Phobjikha, Wangdi Phodrang 403 54 457
Khotokha, Wangdi Phodrang 14 0 14
Bumthang (Tang and Chumey, Chokhor) 22 3 25
Lhuntse (Dungkar) 2 2 4
Bumdeling (Trashiyangtse) 98 9 107
Gangkha (Trashiyangtse) 2 0 2
TOTAL 541 68 609
Note: No Cranes observed in Tangmachu, Menbi Gewog, Lhuntse at the time and on the day of the count though three cranes were seen in January 2016.

The Black-necked cranes start migrating to warmer areas in winter from their summer habitats in Tibetan Autonomous Region, China in the last week of October and fly back to their summer habitats in last week of February to mid-March.

RSPN monitors and maintains records of Black-necked cranes in Phobjikha (Gangtey and Phobji Gewog) which is the largest winter habitats of the bird in Bhutan. The Black-necked Crane Visitor Centre maintained by RSPN in Phobjikha provide valuable information on the bird and the wetland conservation efforts to visitors. Black-necked Cranes are legally protected in Bhutan. Both the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan (FNCA), 1995 and the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules (FNCR) of Bhutan, 2006 have listed the bird under Schedule I as protected bird species. The FNCR and the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan (NBSAP) of Bhutan, 2014, regards it as an endangered bird species.

Most of the Black-necked Cranes habitat in Bhutan falls under protected areas or some sort of protected area. Bumdeling and Khotokha have been designated as Ramsar Site No. 2032 and Site No. 2033 respectively since 2012.

Acknowledgements:

RSPN would like to thank all the individuals involved in the Annual Count and various agencies for their continued support. The 2015-2016 simultaneous annual was successful with the support of the following stakeholders;

  1. Department of Forest and Park Services: In Bumthang : Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, Wangchuck Centennial National Park, Chumey Range Office, Tang Range Office. In Trashiyangtse: Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. In Lhuntse: Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park
  2. Local Government: In Khotokha: Gup, Nahi Gewog. In Chokhor: Tshogpa, Chokhor Gewog.
  3. Others: In Phobjikha: Staffs of Aman Kora Resorts.

BNC Population form 1987-2016:

Years
Winter Period
Khotokha
Phobjikha
Bumdeling
Bumthang
Gelephu
Lhuntse
Total
1
1986-1987
30
120
200
20
0
0
370
2
1987-1988
20
122
160
30
0
0
332
3
1988-1989
30
120
200
20
0
0
370
4
1989-1990
11
102
169
15
0
0
297
5
1990-1991
10
111
152
12
0
0
285
6
1991-1992
6
102
139
8
0
0
255
7
1992-1993
16
175
175
8
0
0
374
8
1993-1994
7
195
203
0
0
0
405
9
1994-1995
16
208
177
23
0
0
424
10
1995-1996
13
212
144
16
0
0
385
11
1996-1997
7
223
136
14
0
0
380
12
1997-1998
8
219
181
15
0
0
423
13
1998-1999
7
240
146
18
0
0
411
14
1999-2000
6
244
155
10
0
0
415
15
2000-2001
4
248
151
6
0
0
409
16
2001-2002
4
262
169
7
0
0
442
17
2002-2003
8
269
155
9
0
0
443
18
2003-2004
6
270
150
5
0
0
431
19
2004-2005
4
352
149
12
0
0
517
20
2005-2006
7
353
141
9
0
0
510
21
2006-2007
7
317
123
12
0
7
466
22
2007-2008
6
292
130
12
0
3
443
23
2008-2009
11
322
116
8
0
0
457
24
2009-2010
9
326
123
4
0
0
462
25
2010-2011
3
347
94
8
4
0
456
26
2011-2012
5
335
102
5
0
0
447
27
2012-2013
7
368
107
5
0
0
487
28
2013-2014
7
422
112
9
0
0
550
29
2014-2015
6
396
107
28
0
7
544
30
2015-2016
14
457
109
25
0
4
609

 

Reported by: Santa Lal Gajmer and Tshering Phuntsho.

Pictures: Gen Kato (JICA Volunteer at the Black-necked Crane Visitor Center)