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Migratory White Cranes in Poyang Lake

Poyang Lake is China's largest freshwater lake, located in the north of Jiangxi Province, with an area of 4,125 square kilometers. The Poyang Lake scenic area contains 41 islands and 7 nature reserves. There are more than 300 species of migratory birds in Poyang Lake reserve, nearly one million birds, including more than 50 kinds of rare birds. Poyang Lake has already been the largest bird reserve in the world.

White cranes used to have three migration routes: eastern, middle and western. The white cranes that overwinter in the Poyang Lake reserve belong to the eastern migration route, flying from the breeding grounds of northeastern Siberia to the south, passing through the Russian Far East and Northern China. Both the central and western migration routes start from the breeding grounds of western Siberia and travel south through Russia. In Kazakhstan, the western migration route of white cranes reaches Iran, and the central migration route of white cranes reaches India.

Unfortunately, the two migration routes in the central and western regions have been almost lost due to the environmental pollution and human hunting. Poyang Lake has become the only migratory white cranes' reserve in the world. There are more than 4,000 white cranes in the world, over 90% among which overwinter in Poyang Lake. Poyang Lake is not only the heaven for migratory white cranes but also the heaven for birds' photography lovers.


What is White Crane

The white crane, also called the Siberian white crane, (scientific name: Grus leucogeranus) belongs to a large wading bird, which is slightly smaller than the red-crowned crane, with a body length of 130-140 cm. When standing, the whole body is white, the chest and forehead are bright red, the mouth and feet are dark red. When flying, the wingtips are black, and the rest of the feathers are white. They inhabit in the open plain marsh grassland, tundra swamp, large lake rock and shallow water swamp acting alone, in pairs, or in family groups. The migration season and winter season often integrate large groups of tens or even hundreds of white cranes, especially at the stopover stations and overwintering sites. They mainly eat the stems and roots of plants such as bitter grass, kohlrabi, carex and water chestnut, etc. They also eat leaves, buds and aquatic plants, small amounts of mussels, snails, mollusks, insects, crustaceans and other animals. White cranes are majorly distributed in China, India, Iran, Afghanistan and Japan.


When is the Migratory Time of White Cranes

The good wetland ecosystem and biodiversity in the Poyang Lake area provide white cranes with a suitable habitat and rich food supply. At the beginning of November, the White Crane usually starts from Siberia through the eastern migratory route like Inner Mongolia, Jilin and finally reaches Poyang Lake. They stay at Poyang Lake for almost 5 months every year.

Therefore, from November to March each year, it is the best time to go to Poyang Lake to photograph migratory birds, especially for the white cranes. Photographers who like shooting migratory birds will gather in Poyang Lake to shoot the rare migratory white cranes during that period of time.

White Cranes (photo by www.forestry.gov.cn)


Where to Shoot the White Cranes

Wucheng Migratory Birds Reserve

The National Poyang Lake Migratory Birds Reserve was built in Wucheng, Yongxiu County, and Wucheng is a famous reserve center for shooting migratory birds. Lakes such as Dahuchi, Benghu in Wucheng, the grasslands around the lakes and beaches are ideal places for migratory birds to overwinter. White cranes and the world's largest swarm of wild geese inhabit here, forming a magnificent view of hundreds of birds flying together. Therefore, it is one of the best places to shoot the white cranes.

Gongqing South Lake Wetland Nature Reserve

Gongqingcheng City is a famous hometown of abundant fish and rice on the shore of Poyang Lake. The South Lake Wetland Nature Reserve is located in Gongqingcheng. Every autumn, there are tens of thousands of 29 species of national first-level and second-level migratory birds gathered here and more than 70% of the white cranes in the world overwinter in Gongqing South Lake Wetland Nature Reserve.

Shahu Protection and Management Station

The Shahushan Migratory Bird Watching Area is the main wetland where the wintering migratory birds of Poyang Lake inhabit. More than 100 species of migratory birds come here for wintering, including white cranes, oriental white storks, white-tailed sea eagles, cygnets and little swans etc. It is one of the largest migratory bird wintering places in Asia.

Maying Lake

Maying Lake Island Reserve is located in Duobao Town, Duchang County. Due to its unique geographical location, Maying Lake has attracted many migratory birds to stop there. The first stop of the first batch migratory birds that overwinter at Poyang Lake must be Maying Lake.


White Cranes Photography Tips

  1. Winter is the best time to photograph overwintering migratory birds. The temperature in the Poyang Lake area is low, so photographers should wear warm clothes.
  2. The best time for bird watching in the day is in the early morning and evening. The migratory birds can be easily scared away by the people who come earlier, so go to the viewing points as early as possible.
  3. Try to wear dark clothes when watching birds. Do not wear brightly colored clothes and accessories to avoid disturbing migratory birds.
  4. It is recommended to bring a telescope with electronic focusing to see the movement of migratory birds clearly.
  5. Do not touch the water with your hands, because there are blood-sucking insects in the lake. Those who go to the lake must wear high-top shoes.
  6. When photographing wild birds, it is recommended to try not to disturb the birds. Phone ringtones and talking sounds, etc. will make the bird alert and uncomfortable.