Red-Crowned Crane: The National Bird of China

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: January 6, 2023
© asharkyu/
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As one of the five largest countries in the world, China hosts a variety of ecosystems. From north to south, the country is about 3,400 miles so you can imagine how different the climate is in northern China vs southern. Much of China is grasslands and about a third is mountainous, but there are vast forests, dry deserts and thousands of miles of coastline. China is a spectacular destination for birders that want to see some of the most magnificent birds. Locations like Beidaihe, Poyang Lake, Caohai, and the bird sanctuary at Qinghai Lake can have thousands of migratory birds at a time or just a few of some of the rarest birds in the world. When it comes to the national bird of China there is one that stands out. Read on to find out all about the national bird of China!

What Is the National Bird of China?

Largest Cranes - Red-crowned Crane
Red-crowned cranes represent good luck, longevity, peace, and fidelity.


The national bird of China is the red-crowned crane. These majestic birds represent good luck, longevity, peace, and fidelity. Photos of these cranes often depict two cranes together because they are known to mate for life. Red-crowned cranes are pure white with black legs, neck, and secondary feathers. The top of their head is crowned in red which is actually a bald area exposing their red skin. They are one of the largest crane species standing nearly 5 feet tall. When their wings are outstretched they have a wingspan of up to 8 feet!

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Is the National Bird of China on the Chinese Flag?

China flag
The flag of China does not contain imagery of the country’s national bird.


No. The flag of China is all red with one large yellow star in the upper left-hand corner and four smaller yellow stars to the right. The large yellow star stands for China as a nation and the smaller stars represent the diverse national minorities. However, while the red-crowned crane is not featured on the flag, it is used throughout art and literature in Chinese culture.

Are Red-Crowned Cranes an Endangered Species?

Red-crowned cranes are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. They were last assessed in July of 2021 when it was estimated that the population was between 2,000 and 2,650. Habitat loss is one of the key threats to the red-crowned crane population, forcing more cranes to live in a smaller area and compete for food. According to the IUCN report, “Due to habitat loss, the winter range in China is now only 8% of the extent present in the 1980s”. In 2009, the International Red-crowned Crane Network (IRCN) was created to help implement conservation actions to protect red-crowned cranes.

Do Red-crowned Cranes Only Live in China?

Red-Crowned Crane
Red-crowned cranes also live in Russia, Mongolia, and Japan.


No. Red-crowned cranes live in China, southeast Russia, Mongolia and parts of Japan. The cranes that live in China and Russia are migratory whereas the population in Japan is not. In the winter the red-crowned cranes that live in China and Russia will move to several wintering areas including the Jiangsu province of China, the Yellow River delta and parts of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. They can live in both freshwater marshes as well as coastal salt marshes. Red-crowned cranes also make their home along rivers, in ponds, rice paddies and fields.

What Other Cranes Live in China?

Largest Cranes - Black-necked Crane
Black-necked cranes are just one of several crane species that live in China.

©Perry chang/

There are nine species of cranes that live or winter in China. While many of them are endangered or vulnerable, there are some species that are thriving in the country. The cranes that live in China include the red-crowned, Siberian, black-necked, hooded, white-naped, sarus, sandhill, Demoiselle, and Eurasian crane (common cranes).

What are the 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac?

The Chinese Zodiac features 12 animals, each representing a year on a rotating schedule. The Chinese New Year will start on January 22, 2023, with 2023 being the year of the rabbit. Each animal has certain attributes that go along with it and people can consult the year they were born to see what animal is their zodiac animal. Sometimes they use their signs to see who they are most compatible with. Here are the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac along with the year they represent. Can you find your Chinese Zodiac Animal?

Rat1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Ram (Goat)1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

What Other Animals Live in China?

Animals with Opposable Thumbs-giant panda
Giant pandas live only in China.

©Bryan Faust/

The animal often associated with China is the giant panda. These lovable black and white bears are only found in China and are considered vulnerable by the IUCN. One of the interesting facts about the panda is that it only eats bamboo shoots and leaves. They can eat between 26-84 pounds of bamboo a day! Red pandas are another animal that lives in China. Red pandas look like a cross between a fox and a raccoon.

Snakes are an important symbol in Chinese culture and are considered good luck. Some of the snakes in China are cobras, kraits, pit vipers, and sea snakes. Non-venomous snakes in China include boas, pythons, and rat snakes.

Other unique animals in China include the Chinese giant salamander, Tibetan Macaque, Siberian tiger, and Chinese sturgeon.

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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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  1. International Crane Foundation, Available here:
  2. IUCN, Available here:
  3. The Met, Available here:
  4. Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Available here:
  5. World Wide Fund for Nature, Available here: