Discover The National Bird of Vietnam

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: January 24, 2023
© kajornyot wildlife photography/Shutterstock.com
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Vietnam is a country in southeast Asia along the South China Sea. To the west is Cambodia and Laos and to the north is China. The country has a variety of diverse habitats including mountains, tropical forests, flat plains, the Mekong and Red River deltas and miles of coastline. These habitats support a wide range of wildlife including hundreds of species of birds. Is the national bird one of the colorful songbirds like the barbets or bee eaters? Maybe the great egret or regal sea eagle? The eastern sarus crane is an important figure in Vietnamese mythology, so is that the national bird? Does Vietnam even have an official national bird? Read on to discover about the national bird of Vietnam.

Is there a National Bird of Vietnam?

There is not an official national bird of Vietnam. There is however a rich history of culturally significant birds in the country. One of the symbols of Vietnam is a crane-like bird that was featured in Vietnamese folklore. Images of this bird were repeatedly used on the bronze drums of the Dong Sun culture. This bird was referred to as the Chim Lac, with Chim meaning “bird” and Lac meaning “lost”. Historians have yet to determine exactly what kind of bird it represented but many agree it is along the lines of a crane, stork or heron. Some believe it is a made-up bird similar to a phoenix or a griffin.

What Is the Story of the Eastern Sarus Crane?

Largest Crane - Sarus Crane
The majestic sarus crane can reach six feet tall and in Vietnam they are found in the Mekong river basin.

©vanchai/Shutterstock.com

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In Vietnamese mythology the story of the eastern sarus crane is that they are sent down from heaven when someone dies to escort them back to heaven to enjoy eternal life. Eastern sarus cranes look similar to red-crowned cranes. Their heads and upper neck are all red with a greenish crown. Sarus crane’s bodies are mostly gray with black tipped wings. Their legs match their head in slightly lighter red color. Eastern sarus cranes can get up to six feet tall! In Vietnam the eastern sarus crane can be found in the Mekong river basin. Vietnam also has common cranes and black-necked cranes.

What Kind of Storks Live in Vietnam?

Some of the storks that live in Vietnam are the milky stork, black stork, black-necked stork and painted stork. The Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary is located in southern Vietnam and has more than 20 different stork species. Milky storks are white with black underwings and long red legs. They are a little smaller than painted storks standing around three feet tall (35 to 38 inches). Black storks are about the same size as milky storks but their plumage is all black except for the white chest and underwings. Black-necked storks are quite a bit taller, reaching nearly five feet (51 to 59 inches). They have a blueish-black head, neck and wings but their bodies are white. The painted stork has a white body and black/white wings but they get their name from the colorful pink flight feathers and long orange beak.

What Kind of Herons Live in Vietnam?

Grey heron in flight
Grey herons are just one of several species of herons found in Vietnam.

©Adrian Eugen Ciobaniuc/Shutterstock.com

Herons can be found in many provinces in Vietnam but there is a higher concentration in the Tram Chim National Park. Some of the herons in Vietnam include:

  • Grey heron: dark grey feathers with a lighter neck and orangish bill, 40 to 44 inches tall.
  • Purple heron: grayish-purple feathers with a dark stripe along the side of its neck, 31 to 35 inches tall.
  • Chinese pond heron: dark brown head, blackish back, white underside, black-tipped yellow bill, 18 to 20 inches tall
  • Javan pond heron: light brown head, darker brown back, white underside, black-tipped yellow bill, 18 to 20 inches tall
  • Black-crowned night heron: contrasting white body with black wings and black crown, 22 to 24 inches tall

Are There Any Birds Featured on the Money of Vietnam?

No. The money of Vietnam, the dong, features the famous Vietnamese Prime Minister/President of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. He served as Prime Minister from 1945 to 1955 and then as President until his death in 1969. The design on the back of the banknotes has had several different series but birds have not been included. The first series did have one animal, the elephant on the back of the 10 dong and a fishery was featured on the back of the five dong.

Are there any Birds in the Vietnamese Zodiac?

The Vietnamese zodiac represents 12 different animals, each with unique characteristics. There is one bird in the zodiac, the rooster, which is thought to symbolize a mix of braveness and resilience but can also be proud and pretentious. The 12 animals of the Vietnamese zodiac in order are:

  • Rat
  • Water Buffalo
  • Tiger
  • Cat
  • Dragon
  • Snake
  • Horse
  • Goat
  • Monkey
  • Rooster
  • Dog
  • Pig

Is There a National Animal of Vietnam?

Wild Water Buffalo in Yala West National Park, Sri Lanka
The water buffalo is the national animal of Vietnam where they are often used for farm work.

©Hugh Lansdown/Shutterstock.com

Yes. The national animal of Vietnam is the water buffalo. Water buffalo are massive animals and can be five to 6.2 feet at the shoulder and eight to 10 feet long. The males have huge horns that jut out the side of their heads and curve backward with some having a span of five feet. Although they sound dangerous the water buffalo has been domesticated for 5,000 years and are actually quite gentle. They have been used by the Vietnamese and other cultures on farms to help plow the fields and as transportation to move crops and people. There is also some symbolism with the national animal of Vietnam, if you own a water buffalo that has even symmetrical hair then you and your family will experience good luck.

What Other Animals Live in Vietnam?

Other animals that live in Vietnam include Asian elephants however their numbers have dwindled over the years. Not only did they live in the wild but they were also domesticated to help in the timber industry. Elephants still live in Yok Don National Park, Pu Mat National Park and Quang Nam.

There is a variety of primates in Vietnam with Vietnam long-tailed monkey, stump-tailed macaque, golden monkey and the endangered langurs. Red-shanked douc is a type of monkey that has reddish legs and matching collar with a furry white beard. They live in the high canopies of the jungle.

Another impressive bird in Vietnam is the great hornbill. These birds have an enormous yellow bill with an additional “bill” on top called a casque. Their bodies are mostly black with white feathers underneath and yellow markings on their wings. Great hornbills can get to be 37 to 47 inches tall. The great hornbill would make for an impressive national bird as well, however, for now Vietnam will have to decide if they eventually want an official national bird.

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The Featured Image

Types of Crane birds - Sarus Crane
A couple of Eastern Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) at Huay Jorrakaemak Reservoir Non-Hunting Area, Thailand. These types of Crane birds are the tallest flying birds in the world.
© kajornyot wildlife photography/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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